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WE MAKE THE MOVIES 




MAKE 

THE 

MOVIES 



Edited by 

NANCY NAUMBURG 




W. W. NORTON & COMPANY, INC. 

/ PUBLISHERS NEW YORK 



PRINTED IN THE UMITJED STATES OF AMERICA 
FOR THE PUBLISHERS BY QUTNN & BODEN COMPANY, INC. 



CONTENTS 



FOREWORD Nancy Naumburg . . xi 

L THE PRODUCER MAKES A PLAN 
Jesse L, Lasky (ASSOCIATE PRODUCER 

AT RKO-RADIO PICTURES) ... I 

II. LOOKING FOR A STORY Samuel 
Marx (STORY EDITOR AT SAMUEL GOLD- 
WYN'S) 16 

IIL THE STORY GETS A TREATMENT 
Sidney Howard (PLAYWRIGHT AND 
SCREEN WRITER) 32 

IV. THE VOICE BEHIND THE MEGA- 
PHONE John Cromwell (DIRECTOR 

AT SELZNICK-INTERNATIONAL STUDIO) 53 

V. THE PRODUCTION TAKES SHAPE 

Clem Beauchamp (ASSISTANT SHORTS 

PRODUCER AT RKO-RADIO PICTURES) . 64 

VI. DESIGNING THE SETS Hans Dreier 
(HEAD OF THE ART DEPARTMENT, 
PARAMOUNT PICTURES) 80 

VII. ON THE SPOT Robert Edward Lee 
(ASSISTANT DIRECTOR FOR MAURITZ 
STILLER, ROUBEN MAMOULIAN, FRITZ 
LANG) 9 

V 



Vi CONTENTS 

VIII. THE PLAYERS ARE CAST Phil 
Friedman (CASTING DIRECTOR AT RKO- 
RADIO PICTURES) 106 

IX. THE ACTRESS PLAYS HER PART 
Bette Davis (STAR AT WARNER 

BROTHERS STUDIO) . . . . UJ 

X. THE ACTOR PLAYS HIS PART 
Paul Muni (STAR AT WARNER 

BROTHERS STUDIO) . . . 13! 

XL SHOOTING THE MOVIES John 
Arnold, A.S.C. (HEAD OF THE CAM- 
ERA DEPARTMENT, METRO-GOLDWYN- 
MAYER STUDIO; FORMER PRESIDENT OF 
THE AMERICAN SOCIETY OF CINEMA- 
TOGRAPHERS) 143 

XII. RECORDING AND RE-RECORDING 

Nathan Levinson (HEAD OF THE 

SOUND DEPARTMENT, WARNER BROTH- 
ERS STUDIO) 173 

XIIL CUTTING THE FILA AnneBauchens 
(CUTTER FOR CECIL B. DE MILLE, PARA- 
MOUNT PICTURES) . , . .199 

XIV. SCORING THE FILM Max Sterner 
(MUSICAL COMPOSER AT WARNER 

BROTHERS STUDIO) . . . . 2l6 



CONTENTS Vli 

XV. DESIGNING FOR COLOR Lansing 

C. Holden (COLOR DESIGNER FOR The 
Garden of Allah AND A Star Is Born 239 

XVI. MICKEY MOUSE PRESENTS Walt 

Disney (HEAD OF WALT DISNEY PRO- 
DUCTIONS) 253 

BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES ... 273 

GLOSSARY 281 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 



Photographing a dance sequence from a camera, crane Frontis. 

FACING PAGE 

Scene showing use of transparency background . . 4 

Set of a New York tenement background . . . . 20 

Showing use of studio tank in shooting scene in "Dods- 

ivorth" 36 

John Cromwell rehearsing a scene from "The Prisoner 

of Zendc?' 54 

Shooting a close-up in "Winterset" 68 

Elevation of a set for "AngeF' 84 

Model of a set for "Anger 85 

Shooting a scene on location 100 

Dress extras in a concert hall set 116 

Bette Davis between scenes 124 

Bette Davis plays a scene 124 

A scene from "Marked WomwF 125 

Paul Mum in three stages of makeup for "Zola? . . 132 
flaying a scene in "The Life of Ewtile Zola? . . .133 

The camera follows the actors in a scene for "Conquest" 148 

Sound-recording crew in action 180 

Re-recording room showing mixer at the console . . 181 

The Moviola 212 

Girls splicing film 212 

Max Sterner conducting the recording orchestra . * 238 

ix 



X LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

FACIN 

Making a color test 2 39 

Shooting an outdoor scene in Technicolor . . . . 239 

Progressive stages in drawing and painting a cell . .260 
A painted cell showing Minnie Mouse and Donald Duck 

superimposed over a background cell . . . .260 
Girls working on animated cartoon 260 



FOREWORD 



Nancy Naumburg 



IT is the intention of this book to take the reader to a 
motion-picture studio and show him how a motion 
picture is actually made. The material for this book has 
been contributed by leading artists and technicians in 
Hollywood, each of whom describes his part in the pro- 
duction. The technique of the American film is the most 
highly developed and the most widely imitated of all 
motion-picture techniques. But few people outside of the 
industry are familiar with it. Actually, the processes in- 
volved are so varied and so complex, and each department 
has so many ramifications of its own, that it might be of 
some help to the reader to begin with a bird's-eye view of 
the main processes of motion-picture making. 

The first thing of importance in making a film is to find 
a good story. This is probably the most difficult problem 
of the studios. While each has its own staff of writers, its 
story editor and staff of readers, who comb books, plays 
and magazines with the sole purpose of finding a story, still 
a good screen story is hard to find because it must have 
visual interest as well as a good plot and it must translate 
all situations into action. The search for stories would not 
be so difficult if more writers wrote directly for the screen 
rather than in another medium first. 

The scarcity of screen material is so real that when the 
head producer of a studio finds a story he may buy it for 
certain stars or merely because it may have future possi- 

xi 



XU FOREWORD 

bilities. Once a story is to go into production, he delegates 
its development to one of his assistants, an associate pro- 
ducer, whom he considers best fitted for this type of 
story. The first job of the associate producer is to find a 
writer. This also demands care in selection; he must find 
a writer whose talents suit the story. There are thousands 
of writers in Hollywood; he may choose one of the studio 
writers or one of the many free-lance writers. But the 
writer he chooses must be adept in following the story 
through the many drafts which are necessary before the 
story is ready for the cameras. The associate producer may 
call in other writers to work on the story; each will con- 
tribute something else: one perhaps new situations, another 
the dialogue and a third the continuity or final form of the 
screen play. But this practice does not make for the best 
screen plays. It is impossible to achieve unity in the story 
when each writer has a different conception of it. The 
practice of having several writers work on a story may 
account for the lack of consistency and slipshod treatment 
of many Hollywood films. 

The story must be guided in its development by the 
director, who now enters the production and from this 
point on transforms the story from paper onto film. If he 
has not already been chosen by the head of the studio, the 
producer now sets out to find the director best fitted for 
this type of story. This is even more difficult than finding 
a writer, because the director is the most important indi- 
vidual in the production of a motion picture. He must 
visualize the picture on the screen* If he does not "feel" 
the story, he cannot make it into a convincing motion pic- 
ture. Although many directors have great versatility, each 
seems to be temperamentally best fitted for a particular 
type of production. This is due to the fact that the stereo- 



FOREWORD 

typing of film stories has made some directors specialists 
in their field. A director of fast-paced modern comedies, 
for example, will probably not excel in a subtle psycho- 
logical drama. 

The producer may have just the director in mind or he 
may approach several before he finds one who will evince 
enthusiasm for the story. Sometimes a director is not called 
in until the screen play assumes its final form, when, in all 
probability, he will want it completely rewritten to fit his 
ideas of the production. It is far better if the director col- 
laborates with the writer on the story from the very begin- 
ning, and it is a considerable saving to the studio in time 
and money as well. The director should always be given 
complete freedom in executing his ideas for the produc- 
tion, since on the results of his guidance the picture will 
either stand or fall. 

The director begins his activities with a discussion of the 
first draft of the story with the writer. This takes place in 
the first of a series of conferences which form the basis of 
all those careful preparations which must be made before 
the actual production begins. It will probably take three 
or four months before all departments, actors, writers and 
director are ready to start shooting. The Hollywood 
studios are noted for their extreme attention to detail; 
nothing must be overlooked; everything must be done to 
create the perfect illusion. The writer's first draft goes to 
the production office, which supervises the budgets and 
co-ordinates the activities of all departments in the various 
studio productions. Here the story must be estimated in 
terms of men and materials. The production manager in 
charge assigns an assistant or unit manager to supervise the 
problems and finances of the story. Now the director 
chooses an assistant, who is his man Friday, to represent 



XIV FOREWORD 

him in all conferences with the unit manager concerning 
the details of the production. Although they must agree on 
vital points, actually they represent two opposing camps: 
the assistant director the wishes of the director in express- 
ing his conception of the story unhampered by restric- 
tions, while the unit manager represents the production 
manager in zealously trying to keep the production within 
the budget and schedule assigned. Together they analyze 
the script so that each department will know its own needs 
for the budget. Each department has its own expenses, its 
own crew and the necessary materials for its work in the 
production, and, on this basis, each department submits its 
estimate. 

Of course, none of the procedure is as simple as it 
sounds. For example, while the art department outlines 
sketches for the various sets, the director and writer may 
decide to change certain scenes in the story, thereby elim- 
inating certain sets. This would alter the estimate of the 
art department as well as those of the carpentry, paint, 
plaster, upholstery, property and electrical departments, 
all of which are concerned with the construction and dec- 
oration of the sets. Actually, the work of all departments 
is so closely interwoven that what affects one department 
affects the entire fabric of production. 

Now the director may call upon the music department 
and arrange for the type of scoring which will outline the 
mood of the story. He may want background music for 
certain scenes or he may want complete scoring through- 
out the film. Ordinarily one composer scores the film, but 
if it is a musical production, song writers must also be en- 
gaged. Although the composer will outline his themes, he 
does not write the complete score until after the picture 
has been photographed and edited, as the music must fit 



FOREWORD XV 

the exact length of the scenes and these will not be deter- 
mined until after they are cut and assembled. The best 
scores seem to be those in which themes identify the char- 
acters and are later developed and varied to fit the dra- 
matic situations. Music is of great psychological impor- 
tance in films; it has rarely been given the consideration it 
rightly deserves; the film score is a medium which should 
stimulate and marshal the best efforts of modern composers; 
it is one of the most powerful means of bringing significant 
music to the vast masses of people throughout the country. 
At this point in the preparation, the writer and director 
complete the final version of the story or shooting script, 
from which the production will be photographed. It often 
happens that they have included scenes which must be 
eliminated when the script is passed upon by the office of 
the Association of Motion Picture Producers under the 
direction of Mr. Will H. Hays. This is the organization of 
producers which anticipates the taboos of various state 
censorship boards throughout the country. It can deter- 
mine which scenes will pass the Kansas state board and 
which will pass the New York board; its regulations cover 
the footage of a kiss and the sanctity of the law. Obvi- 
ously, the state censorship boards have done much to 
emasculate the American motion picture and to deprive it 
of its right to comment on institutions and behavior. The 
motion picture will never play a vital part in the shaping 
of American life if it is deprived of the right of free 
speech. There is no reason why the movies should be cen- 
sored when newspapers, magazines and the theater are un- 
hampered. As sources of potential harmful influence to 
adolescents, these are no less potent. The inanity of many 
Hollywood stories is due in no small measure to the 



XVI FOREWORD 

bigotry of those unnamed ladies and gentlemen who com- 
prise the censor boards of the various states. 

When the necessary changes have been made in the 
script, the assistant director maps out a shooting schedule 
which is the blueprint for the actual production. This 
fixes the starting and finishing dates and groups the scenes 
according to set or location, which both saves time and 
curtails actors' salaries. This procedure prevents the di- 
rector from shooting his scenes in the continuity of the 
script. He must therefore keep his sense of the whole 
firmly in mind. The actors must work themselves into 
their scenes without preliminary build-up, and the script 
girl, who acts as his secretary on the set, must keep a rec- 
ord of all details of the scenes so that they will tally when 
they are assembled in sequence. The shooting schedule 
also informs the wardrobe department of all costume 
changes for the players and the property department of 
all props to be used. Everything is detailed to insure the 
maximum efficiency, as the loss of an hour may cost the 
studio thousands of dollars. 

With the stars already chosen by the producer, the cast- 
ing director enters the production to select the supporting 
players and submit his choice to the producer and director. 
Now the final preparations are made before the actual 
production starts: the sets are built and decorated, the stars 
tested for make-up and wardrobe and the director confers 
on last-minute changes with the writer and the various 
departments. 

The actual shooting begins. This generally takes about 
a month, although some productions take much longer. To 
an outsider, more time is wasted on the set than seems 
necessary. In an eight-hour day only three to six minutes 
of film are shot which will be seen in the theaters. But the 



FOREWORD XV11 

long waits are a necessary part of production. It is dur- 
ing these that the careful technical adjustments of lights, 
camera and sound are made which distinguish the Holly- 
wood film technique and account for its technical excel- 
lence. The director rehearses a scene and, when he is 
ready, the cameraman shoots it. If there is the slightest 
doubt in anyone's mind, he will retake the scene again and 
again until everyone is satisfied. Once a scene is shot, it 
can neither be changed nor improved, and if it is not per- 
fect from every angle it must be discarded. 

The director may want the editor, or cutter as he is also 
called, to stand by during the shooting so that he can 
facilitate the continuity of the screen play by suggesting 
certain connecting shots which will be effective in the 
editing. His is the final responsibility for assembling the 
various sequences of the film as effectively and dramati- 
cally as possible. This is an important responsibility. Since 
the film is, after all, only a series of images, the editor must 
assemble them so that the scenes are neither too long nor 
too short and the story assumes a rhythmic flow. 

At the end of each day's shooting, the director and 
editor, together with a chosen few, watch the projection 
of the scenes taken on the previous day, so that they may 
have a clear perspective of what they have already accom- 
plished and so the director may select the takes he wants 
for the editing. If he is not satisfied with certain scenes he 
must retake them the following day. This procedure con- 
tinues until all the shooting has been completed. Then the 
editor assembles the scenes roughly according to the script 
and for the first time the director and producer will see 
the picture as a whole. They review it carefully, the di- 
rector again noting where retakes should be made or scenes 



XV111 FOREWORD 

added before the crews and actors are released and the 
final order is given to demolish the sets. 

Now all effects are added by the special effects depart- 
ment, which bridge the time lapses between scenes, and 
the composer re-enters to score the film and time his music 
to fit the scenes. All additional sounds are then recorded 
together with the music, and the picture is ready for a pre- 
view at a neighboring theater. This is important because it 
shows the reaction of a typical audience. Besides, those 
connected with the production are so close to it that they 
are no longer capable of judging the picture, A conclave 
follows the preview, lasting into the small hours of the 
morning, when the studio staff excitedly discusses the pic- 
ture in the light of the audience reaction. They decide to 
eliminate certain scenes and retake others. The picture is 
finally finished. But there is no rest for the departments: 
release dates must be met, new stories are waiting, and 
once more everyone plunges in and starts the same pro- 
cedure all over again. 

Actually, there are no rigid rules or routines for produc- 
tion. Each demands a different handling, each studio has 
a slightly different organization and methods of produc- 
tion. These methods even vary within one studio for dif- 
ferent pictures. For instance, one producer may employ 
one writer, another several; one director may collaborate 
with the writer, another may not be called in until the 
script is ready; one picture may take a year to make, an- 
other three weeks; one may need several previews, another 
only one. 

The contributors to this book represent various studios 
and various methods of picture-making. But all studios and 
all methods of production are sufficiently similar so that 



FOREWORD XIX 

the chapters as a whole may represent the making of a 
composite motion picture. 

It may be seen from this brief outline that some of the 
chapters will overlap because several of the contributors 
are involved in the same processes in the production. For 
example, the associate producer and director are both 
present through every step of the production. But their 
viewpoints are completely divergent: the producer must 
watch the financial commitments of the film, the pre- 
determined release date and the production itself, while 
the director is primarily interested in executing the story 
as artistically as possible. Again, the director, assistant di- 
rector, stars, cameraman and sound man will all discuss 
various phases of the shooting of the picture not strictly 
within their own province. To eliminate the discussion of 
any one of these contributors would be to eliminate a step 
in the production. 

The chapters are arranged as chronologically as pos- 
sible. It will be seen from the outline that this is not com- 
pletely possible, however, because many departments 
function simultaneously while others enter and leave at 
certain periods, only to re-enter again when their functions 
are required. Some departments work on the production 
only during the preparation, some enter the preparation 
and leave after the shooting, while still others enter the 
production during the preparation, such as the music and 
editing departments, and do not re-enter until after the 
picture has been shot. 

Two additional chapters have been included: one on the 
color designer and one on the animated cartoon, both de- 
velopments which bear watching. The arrival of color in 
motion pictures means a new function in the pattern of 
production: that of the color designer, who plans and 



XX FOREWORD 

supervises the entire color scheme of the production to fit 
the mood of the story. Color is used here like music to 
heighten mood. But, like the introduction of sound, color 
will revolutionize the form of the black and white picture. 
It will establish its own conventions because of the limita- 
tions of color photography on the screen. In this way new 
combinations will be formed. Color in motion pictures will 
do much to heighten the artistic tastes of audiences. 

A chapter on the technique of the animated cartoon has 
been included because its quality and standards are con- 
sistently higher than any other type of short subject pro- 
duced in America. Its entrance into the feature field will 
mark a new and interesting departure. The animated car- 
toon demands a more highly creative imagination than the 
acted film. Motion-picture makers can learn much from 
the animated cartoon in its timing, rhythm and sense of 
movement. 

As the reader will see from the previous outline, certain 
facts become apparent in considering the making of mo- 
tion pictures. A motion-picture production demands artis- 
try and technical skill. It demands complete co-ordination 
between all the various artists and technicians who func- 
tion in its making. It is the most co-operative of all art 
forms; the work of all the minds which enter into its 
production must be fused into a unified whole. The one 
man who plays the most important part in fusing these 
elements in the production is the director, A good motion 
picture bears the stamp of his personality and his individual 
comments on the story. These show not only his under- 
standing of the medium but his understanding of life as 
well. The artistic importance of the motion picture lies in 
the interpretation of a single mind. 



FOREWORD XXI 

The director can create and control a world of his own 
in which all persons and objects conform to the vital pat- 
tern as he conceives it. He can place the person and light 
the object as he wants the audience to absorb them; he 
can juxtapose their images to achieve new meanings; he can 
give persons and objects in his world such visual signifi- 
cance that the world beyond the screen takes on new vis- 
ual significance for the audience. Hollywood films have 
spent much time in creating an artificial glamour. They 
have neglected the beauty of very simple things. The 
motion picture more than any other medium can catch the 
rhythms and motions of living things. The greater the 
director, the simpler the basic pattern of the world he cre- 
ates. 

Too many motion pictures lack individuality. In fact, 
many are so much alike that the work of their directors 
cannot be distinguished. It may be that directors are not 
given sufficient leeway in executing thek ideas. It may be 
that it is impossible for one man's individuality to come 
through in such a co-operative undertaking. But there are 
a few directors in Hollywood whose work keeps to an in- 
dividual pattern. Until there are others, the American film 
will remain standardized. 

In the selection of stories, still another defect is ap- 
parent. It has become a costly practice of the Hollywood 
studios to buy successful novels and plays because of thek 
added exploitation value for the screen. Actually, very 
few novels or plays have ever become successful motion 
pictures without a great many changes. The studio then 
employs at least a round half-dozen of writers to trans- 
form the successful novels and plays into screen plays. In 
the course of thek transformation, many of these plays 
and novels must be changed to such an extent that thek 



XX11 FOREWORD 

tides are no longer suitable and must be discarded with 
the result that the successful play or novel becomes a 
financial burden and loses its exploitation value as well. 

Before the ever recurring question of why motion pic- 
tures are no better than they are can be answered, it is 
necessary to consider certain basic facts about the indus- 
try. Although many well-intentioned critics have tried to 
find a formula to solve all its malpractices, too often they 
overlook the basic facts. It is obvious that motion pictures 
are far from fully developed and that much still remains 
to be achieved in the medium. The industry is confronted 
with its past mistakes which must be eliminated before 
films can progress. Perhaps the greatest mistake has been 
the tremendous costs involved in producing films. These 
developed during the time when studios made a practice 
of bidding against each other for stories, stars and direc- 
tors. The more money was spent on a film, the more 
production value it was supposed to acquire. What really 
happened was that from this time on, pictures became ex- 
tremely costly to produce, with the result that now a 
motion picture must earn a great deal of money in order 
to become profitable. In other words, it must satisfy two 
totally different audiences: the large cities and the small 
towns. A film which is an artistic success in the large cities 
is almost inevitably a box-office failure in the small towns. 
If, then, the producers find a formula for a picture which 
is a success with both types of audiences, they will repeat 
it over and over again, until the market is glutted with its 
imitations; even then they will abandon it only with great 
reluctance. 

Considering the cost of production and the two con- 
flicting types of audiences which must both be pleased, 
how then can motion pictures of quality be made? They 



FOREWORD XX111 

can be made if they are financed on such a scale that they 
need depend only on the large city audiences. In this way, 
they need not compromise their standards by having to 
appeal to small-town audiences as well. Theaters and audi- 
ences will have to be specially sought to support these 
films. Once found, larger outlets and greater audiences can 
be developed. The major studios would probably not risk 
such a plan because of their high production expenses. 
Even if they would initiate it, they-would probably have 
to abandon it because of financial losses. The main diffi- 
culty would be the fact that the New York bankers, who 
lend money to the producers to make their pictures, would 
hardly support an admittedly unprofitable venture. The 
alternative method of financing artistic motion pictures 
would be to have an independent producing unit on a co- 
operative basis operating on a budget far less pretentious 
than the average studio budget. 

There is a wide field of material open to such a produc- 
ing unit which has not been attempted by Hollywood. 
There is the vast country of America to film with its many 
sections and types of people. Few true films of American 
life ever come out of Hollywood. When films are made 
of a few of the Americans who have been important in 
the history of the country, they are generally distorted. 
The lives of the vast majority of Americans, living on small 
farms, working in the mines and the factories, are never 
seen in the movies. By an honest depiction of American 
life, such a producing unit can do much to develop what 
is vital in American culture. It can also afford to experi- 
ment in the medium of films. The pattern of telling a story 
in Hollywood has been so rigidly fixed that it is not easily 
broken. But it is far from the only pattern. American 
movies will stagnate very shortly if new patterns are not 



FOREWORD 

established. In this way, an independent producing unit 
would make a valuable contribution to the motion picture. 

If the motion-picture industry were not involved in the 
financing of thousands of theaters and equipment through- 
out the country, it would probably find a quicker solution 
for its evils. But as the industry stands today, all the forces 
of production are subservient to the controlling financial 
interests: the actor is guided by the director, who must 
keep to the formula laid down by the producer, who must 
in turn make money for the stockholders. 

Although Hollywood itself is considerably hampered by 
its financial problems, it can still make improvements 
within its limitations. The practice of casting stars in 
"type" parts should be abolished. This will develop their 
acting ability and broaden the field of characterization for 
screen writers, who have always had to base their stories 
on the physical appeal and personality of the stars. Conse- 
quently, neither writers nor stars have been given the 
opportunity to create characters with a range of emotion 
or capable of development. The trend of stars to play 
more varied roles and the fact that actresses are no longer 
afraid of compromising their beauty, when the part de- 
mands it, are both steps in the right direction. 

The short subject, which has been sadly neglected dur- 
ing the days of the double feature bill, can be revived and 
focused upon a wider scope of material which may in- 
clude: the short story form, subjects which lend themselves 
to color experimentation, and educational and scientific 
fields, both of which have been successfully tried out 
abroad. The short subject offers one of the most flexible 
means of experimentation in motion pictures. 

The writing of original stories can also be encouraged, 
which will further establish the motion picture as a me- 



FOREWORD XXV 

dium in its own right. Here the field of limited and recur- 
rent stories can be broadened to include a wider, more 
significant and more mature variety. The abused cycles of 
light comedies and musical productions can be augmented 
by social satires and stories which depict some of the prob- 
lems confronting the world today. Most stories offer a con- 
venient escape from the actual world into a dream world: 
therein lies their popularity. Certainly a few stories can 
afford to present the world as it is. The movies are a tre- 
mendous source of influence; they should not be wasted. 

One achievement of which America can be justly 
proud is its technical excellence. The men who compose 
the studio technical crews are craftsmen of the highest 
order. Year in and year out, the industry conducts tireless 
research in cameras, lenses, films, sound recording and 
equipment to improve the technical quality of motion pic- 
tures. It is only through the generosity of the producers 
that such research has been made possible. More's the pity 
then that the brilliant work of these scientists and en- 
gineers must be wasted on films unworthy of production. 
And more's the pity that such films continue to be made 
because of the vicious circle existing in the finances of the 
industry. 

Technique is America's contribution to the art. Here is 
a means of significant expression. Here is a way to enrich 
the lives of millions with a new vision of the world. 

In concluding this foreword, the editor wishes to ac- 
knowledge with thanks the real assistance given her dur- 
ing the months spent in Hollywood by individuals in the 
motion-picture industry who have made this book possible. 



WE MAKE THE MOVIES 



THE PRODUCER MAKES A PLAN 



Jesse L. Lasky 



TERM "producer of motion pictures" applies to 
the man in charge of production. In his hands lies the 
supervision of every element that goes to make up the fin- 
ished product. These elements are both tangible and in- 
tangible, the control of human beings and real properties as 
well as the control of the artistic temperament, die shap- 
ing of creative forces and the knowledge of the public 
needs for entertainment. A producer must be a prophet 
and a general, a diplomat and a peacemaker, a miser and 
a spendthrift. He must have vision tempered by hindsight, 
daring governed by caution, the patience of a saint and 
the iron of a Cromwell. 

In considering the function of a producer as applied 
to, or rather as dominating, the making of motion pic- 
tures, it is well to consider first the term "producer" in 
its larger sense, that is, the general production head of 
a major studio. In this sense he is the producer of pro- 
ducers. In other words, he works as the co-ordinating force 
of functioning producers under him. In his hands are the 
larger problems of policy and personality, the selection of 
all executive and widely diversified elements, each one as 
important to the whole as the smallest spring in the works 
of a watch. It is largely by him that the product of his 



2 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

studio is hallmarked. Since he has chosen the workers and 
inspired and directed them, the product of those workers 
inevitably bears the stamp of his personality and his mind. 
Yet the wise major executive understands the artistic tem- 
perament enough to permit it to have its way within rea- 
son, so that the product bears not only the trademark of 
the mind of the general producer but contains the results 
also of the other creative forces that work under him. It is 
not necessary here to go into the matter of selecting such a 
studio head. If mistakes are made in such a selection they 
are soon rectified, because nothing reveals inadequacy of 
production supervision as much as a finished motion pic- 
ture. The story may come through as a thrilling and splen- 
did piece of work. There may be gems of acting to en- 
noble the product. A great directorial touch may breathe 
some spark of greatness into it, yet, without the co-ordinat- 
ing personality to fuse these component parts into a unified 
whole, there is no entity in the result. 

Let us then assume that the production head of Imperial 
Studios has been chosen. This has been done by the finan- 
cial and executive interests of the picture company, largely 
dictated from New York. He comes into the Imperial 
Studios to find it in a chaotic and uneasy state. What will 
happen under the new regime no one knows. His first duty 
is to settle this unrest and bring, before confidence and a 
semblance of order can return, a feeling of security and 
well-being which is hard to define, but which is as neces- 
sary to a studio as finance itself. 

The wise producing head makes as few changes as pos- 
sible. The strength of a major executive in any business, 
whether it be the cardinal of a church, the head of a shoe 
factory or the producing head of a motion-picture studio, 
lies in his ability to choose his under executives. Let us 



THE PRODUCER MAKES A PLAN 3 

assume that the new producing head of Imperial Studios 
has this faculty. Otherwise he would not have been se- 
lected. He readily finds, largely because of his complete 
knowledge of the personalities already in the business, 
which we shall assume, those weak links which have 
caused the deterioration in the studio's product and led 
to his coming into power. These he ruthlessly weeds out, 
replacing them where he can by the best men he can find. 
He is then ready to consider the product of Imperial pic- 
tures for the coming year and the following years, as long 
as he shall be in power. Let us assume this has happened 
in the fall of the year. In a series of conferences with the 
financial and executive heads of the company, he learns 
just how much money he will have to spend for the year 
ahead. If the company owns theaters, as most of the major 
companies do, he learns the number of pictures these the- 
aters must have to keep their doors open. He acquaints 
himself with the stars and the featured players available 
for these productions. 

The budget is set as a whole. It is then separated and 
apportioned by the number of pictures and the money 
available for them. First, there are the road show pictures, 
or those pictures with important stories. These are usually 
based on the best-selling novel of the moment, a great 
classic of the past, a successful Broadway play or a pro- 
duction idea founded on a trend in history, biography or 
folklore; such a picture is called a road show because it 
plays on its first release exclusively in one, and that gen- 
erally the best, theater in town, at a definitely higher ad- 
mission. It is also strong enough to stand alone on the bill. 
Such pictures, even in the largest of studios, will not run 
to more than two or three a year. 

The second classification of pictures consists of those 



4 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

that are not as outstanding, yet which nevertheless contain 
one, two, or even three of the studio's stars. These form 
the bulk and backbone of the studio's product. 

A certain amount of money is allotted to what are 
known as program or, since the advent of the double 
bill, "B" pictures. These are pictures generally using the 
studio's featured players and a sprinkling of studio stock 
company or minor contract players, much like the old 
stock company system in the theater. Unknowns, in whom 
the studio sees potentialities, are given their first bath of 
Klieg lights in these pictures. From these many stars have 
sprung into the greater spotlight. The budgets of such 
pictures are limited, their production values are stinted, 
their shooting schedules are shortened. Here young direc- 
tors, in many cases recruited from the cutting room or 
the rank of assistant directors, are given their first chance 
to function alone. These are pictures that either play the 
second half of double bills or, in many instances, are 
never seen in the larger centers of population. If they are, 
they are played in ten-cent grind houses or suburban com- 
munities. Money, too, is apportioned for the short sub- 
jects and cartoons. 

Once returned to Hollywood, the head of production 
calls, together the executives of the studio: the story editor, 
the man in charge of writers, the head of production (in 
this sense is meant physical production which includes the 
real properties of the studio, such as stages and all actual 
tangible assets) and, more important, his staff of associate 
producers. These are his field generals. It is to them he 
gives his broad orders for the coming campaign and it is 
up to each one, on a separate front, to carry out the por- 
tion of the battle allotted to him. 

The wise production head is not content to have in this 




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THE PRODUCER MAKES A PLAN 5 

body of men, numbering eight or ten at the largest studios, 
all men of the same type. The output of a studio must of 
necessity cover the entire field of motion-picture enter- 
tainment, and the mind and creative instincts of no one 
man is able to encompass every type of motion picture. 
Under him there should be realists and idealists, hard- 
boiled hokum experts and daring experimentalists, experts 
in the pageantry school of DeMille and adepts in the 
continental sophistication of Lubitsch. There should be 
a master of action pictures, able to produce many pictures 
at low cost with a minimum of material. 

Having thus assembled his staff, the producer acquaints 
them with the facts of his budget and allots to each of 
them a portion of the year's work according to each one's 
potentialities. In this meeting, the star list of the studio is 
considered as well as the stars of competing studios, while 
the producer plans trades that will bolster up his own 
product in exchange for whatever trading power he pos- 
sesses in his own studio. Production schedules are tenta- 
tively fixed, budgets allotted to each picture, shooting 
dates set, directors assigned insofar as possible, and each 
man is now ready to go ahead with his work for Imperial 
Studios. 

The individual associate producer now takes over his 
own burden, always, of course, under the alert eye of the 
production head. But the work of the production head is 
never done. After all, it is his responsibility to the powers 
that be in New York, the stockholders of the company, 
and the motion-picture public of the world, that his prod- 
uct not only be good, but good also in the sense of black 
ink instead of red at the end of the fiscal year. To do 
this his decisions must be sure, swift and immediate, as 
well as subject to change, because conditions change con- 



6 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

tinuously in the morion-picture industry. A picture set to 
shoot the next day may be suddenly thrown completely 
out of gear because of the illness of the star, the tempera- 
ment of a director or the weakness of the script itself. 
The producer's resources must be such that no contin- 
gency can stop him from finding another star, soothing 
the director like a super-Talleyrand, or, in an all-night 
conference in shirt sleeves and heavy cigar smoke, doctor- 
ing the script by his own creative power. 

The production head of a studio must be alert to chang- 
ing trends and aware, before the public knows it, of any 
boredom on the public's part with current picture trends. 
The web of his mind must be spread over the entire 
world, alert to feel the quiver of a new personality in a 
night club in Budapest, a new play by an unknown author 
in Copenhagen, the next Pulitzer Prize novel before it 
has even been set in galleys, and the young man running 
a little theater in Kalamazoo who will, four years hence, 
make an excellent associate producer. But the most essen- 
tial of his duties is to maintain the spirit of the studio. 
Politics and cliques have done more to undermine studio 
regimes than any other single element. The production 
head cannot carry water on both shoulders so that his 
associates can view the act. If double water-carrying is to 
be done, it must be done in private with care. The pro- 
duction head of a studio must be a strong man, and a man 
willing to be hard when softness would be the easiest way. 

Let us now consider the associate producer and the 
way he functions, from the selection of story material until 
the night of the preview of his picture. At the heart of all 
picture-making Ues the selection of the story itself. This 
may come from a number of sources. It may be a novel 
purchased before or after publication from the publisher 



THE PRODUCER MAKES A PLAN J 

or author. Its price, as are all story prices no matter what 
the material, is based on the demand for the specific story. 
If a number of studios have been interested, the price has 
been heavy. If the story is one that has escaped the eye 
of most story departments and producers but not the eye 
of our alert producer, the price has been considerably less. 
The story material may be a play, already produced on 
Broadway, in which case, according to the producers' code, 
all production companies have had an equal right in bid- 
ding. For, even though one company has financed the 
Broadway production, that company has no inside track 
for its screen purchase except the privilege of meeting the 
highest offer of any other company. Generally, in the pur- 
chase of a Broadway play, the film production cannot be 
made until after the Broadway run is exhausted. If it is an 
unproduced play, the writer in most cases sacrifices a 
production chance, since once the play is made into a 
picture it seldom reaches the stage as a play. 

The material, and this has become a great part of story 
sources in the last few years, may be an original story; 
that is, one written especially for screen production. The 
writing of such material is a very special art and such 
stories are generally written, if a sale is to be hoped for, 
with great attention to possible shots and final screen-play 
construction. Or the material may be a special production 
idea of the associate producer based on the need of some 
special star, a biographical or historical character, an idea 
in the progress of civilization, science or invention, or a 
definite historical period. In such case, a writer must be 
hired who is especially acquainted with the subject matter 
at hand and especially adapted to make a picturable story 
from such material. 

It is the custom now, in most studio story departments, 



8 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

to issue a weekly bulletin compiled partly from material 
covered and made into synopsis form in New York, and 
(this is true mostly of original stories) partly from ma- 
terial submitted in Hollywood to the story department by 
agents or writers themselves. These bulletins cover the 
outstanding material of the week, number anywhere from 
five to ten stories and are sent to every associate producer 
for perusal. If any of these stories appeals to him, he puts 
in a claim for it and, if the deal is O.K.'d by the studio 
head, it is purchased for his production. 

The severest problem of associate producers is to find 
special material for highly specialized and typed stars. 
There is a certain market in Hollywood at all times for 
stories for such personalities as Dietrich, Arnold, West, 
Raft, etc., and the surest way for a story sale is to defi- 
nitely aim at such a permanent need. One of the most diffi- 
cult of all stars' needs to fill are stories for singing stars 
such as Grace Moore, Martini and Lily Pons. Because the 
public has long since tired of success stories starting with 
Cinderella, male or female, and ending at La Scala or the 
Metropolitan, stories are always at a premium which en- 
able a star to sing without stopping for a curtain to go 
up or an orchestra conductor to rap with his baton. 

The associate producer now has four or five stories to 
put into work at one time. The first step is the hiring of 
a writer to make what is known as a treatment. A treat- 
ment is an intermediary step between the raw material of 
the story and the screen play or shooting script. It is 
briefly that pattern on which the picture is based so that 
unpicturable matter in the original story is refined or 
changed, so that the camera may catch it and make 
it understandable to all. It is written in the form of an 



THE PRODUCER MAKES A PLAN 9 

ordinary short story with sufficient dialogue suggested to 
follow the story line. 

The producer has two sources of writers: those under 
special contract to the studio itself, and free-lance writers 
who have no studio contracts but are free to work at dif- 
ferent studios on special assignments. The associate pro- 
ducer must have an intimate knowledge of the strength 
and weakness of all Hollywood writers, because the pic- 
ture-writing field is highly specialized. Writers are brack- 
eted, and justly so, as specialists in their own line. The 
appropriate writer is then hired and given the story ma- 
terial or the production idea of the chief. 

After a story conference, in which the producer imparts 
to the writer his ideas for the treatment of the story, he pro- 
ceeds to mold it into shape. When this treatment satisfies 
the associate producer, the next step is the screen play itself. 
This may be assigned to the writer of the treatment or, in 
most cases, to another writer who is a specialist in screen 
plays. As many as two or three writers may now be put 
on the screen play, one an expert in construction, one a 
specialist in the particular type of dialogue required, and 
perhaps a continuity writer or one qualified in camera 
shots and camera transitions. 

The associate producer must keep complete contact with 
these writers at all times. He must be aware of every step 
they take, he must hold in his hands the story reins, and 
know which one of the team is not pulling his weight or 
holding up his end. He must be quick to make changes in 
such cases, since the production date has been set. There 
is nothing more disastrous than going before the camera 
with an incomplete or unsatisfactory script. 

By now the associate producer has many problems be- 
sides story problems. Casting the picture is one. Since he, 



IO WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

and probably he alone, is familiar with each character in 
the story from the hero and heroine to the least bit player 
and since, in his mind, these characters have assumed life 
itself, it is necessary that he himself select the actors to play 
the parts. Of course, this is done with the co-operation of 
the studio casting office. But to most studio casting offices 
the story is only a story, whereas to the associate producer 
it is as if he were a minor deity creating a new world and 
peopling it with Adams and Eves and Cains and Abels. This 
casting occupies a great part of his waking hours. His sleep- 
ing hours are interrupted by night story conferences. 

When the first screen play is completed, and it generally 
runs overlength (the length of a non-musical may run all 
the way from 125 to 175 pages; a musical somewhat less to 
allow for songs), the copy is sent to the production depart- 
ment and an estimating script is made, based on the stars 
and directors involved, writing costs, including original 
material, production expenses and all other items which go 
into the making of a picture, to the last detail. This cost 
must approximate as nearly as possible the original budget 
assigned to the picture. If it does not, the script must be 
pared to eliminate scenes that run into excessive cost, or 
the associate producer, with the touch of the Blarney stone 
or an iron hand, must wheedle out of the studio head the 
necessary money to proceed with the picture in the manner 
indicated by the script. The estimating cost and the money 
available now tallying, the producer must find time to con- 
sult the art department, inspect sketches for the sets, go 
into conclave with the costume designer, see the music de- 
partment and consult there about the score. If the picture 
is a musical, this becomes doubly important. In fact, the 
producer must transform himself into a man of many pro- 
fessions: dressmaker, artist, musician, writer, star-maker 



THE PRODUCER MAKES A PLAN II 

and, above everything else, diplomat and peacemaker. 

He must find time to look at tests. This is experimental 
film taken of candidates for the various parts, either using 
lines of the script or quite extraneous material, through 
which he must judge the fitness of the applicant for the 
part. In musical numbers the music, both vocal and or- 
chestral, is in most cases pre-scored, that is, recorded first 
on the sound track without the camera, and then dubbed 
into the finished negative after the particular scene has been 
shot silent. This gives better recording of musical numbers. 
Before this, however, songs used in the picture which have 
already been used in other pictures or musical stage pro- 
ductions which are not new, must be cleared, that is, pay- 
ment must be made to the owner of the copyright for 
the original usage. Sometimes this is highly involved, as 
in the case of foreign copyrights. Songs that have been 
written especially for the picture must be arranged and 
orchestrated. 

In most cases the director works with the producer and 
the screen writers on the script. This insures complete co- 
ordination between script and the direction. 

The final shooting script is now ready. The cameras are 
ready to grind. But before production starts, the finished 
screen play must be submitted to the Association of Mo- 
tion Picture Producers, which examines it for censorable 
matter or for anything that might offend the authorities in 
foreign countries as regards the politics, religion or cus- 
toms of the country in question. Many of the separate 
states have special points on which the state censors are 
particularly strict. The Hays office thoroughly understands 
such restrictions and it is most wise to follow, as far as 
possible, any strictures they might raise concerning such 
points. The screen play is returned to the producer with 



12 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

exceptions noted. These are changed and the picture is 
ready for shooting. 

The first day of shooting is over. This may have con- 
sisted of scenes from the end of the picture, since it is not 
shot chronologically. But, for convenience, the scene order 
is dictated by the availability of stages, sets and actors, 
some of whom may have been borrowed from other stu- 
dios and are under pressure to return to their home lots to 
fulfill commitments there. 

The next morning, or whenever convenient the next 
day, the associate producer and the director view the 
rushes. This is the term for all the takes of the previous 
day's work that the director, from his angle on the set, 
has considered sufficiently satisfactory to have printed for 
his own and his master's eye. There may be as many as ten 
or twelve takes of one scene from different angles, distance 
and moods. The producer, with the co-operation of the 
director, must select those shots to be used in the finished 
picture. 

One must remember in detailing the separate steps 
through which the associate producer passes to make a 
picture that, in all probability, he is at work on three or 
four other pictures in different stages of production. He 
must change from hour to hour in mood, character and 
personality to carry the newly arising problems in every 
detail of this manifold schedule. The wise associate pro- 
ducer leaves his director alone on the set except where the 
director is patently wrong, but otherwise undue interfer- 
ence is apt to be fatal. 

The shooting schedule has run its course, all scenes have 
been shot and every angle has been protected by the 
director, that is, covering shots in long shots, close-ups or 
medium shots have been made to obviate retakes as much 



THE PRODUCER MAKES A PLAN 13 

as possible. The negative, by now probably four times 
overlength, is ready for the cutting room. Here it goes 
through the process known as editing, wherein the direc- 
tor and the cutter, or film editor, under the supervision 
of the associate producer, fit the jigsaw pattern of takes 
together, eliminating many scenes, where necessary for 
footage, and very often switching scenes around from the 
original shooting script for story clarification. This is a 
long, laborious and exacting task, and a most important 
one. 

The edited picture is now shown to the office of the 
Association of Motion Picture Producers, and again this 
office notes those things that might mitigate against release 
in certain states or lead to banning entirely in certain for- 
eign countries. If changes are necessary they are made; the 
.picture is again shown to the Hays office and, if satis- 
factory, a Code Certificate is issued. It is then ready for 
Release. 

^ The publicity department is called in and given a view 
of the rough cut so that they may form the basis of their 
publicity campaign. Certain pictures may have acquired 
new exploitation values during the shooting, or pictures 
from which little was expected in the beginning may have 
^assumed new importance because someone or some ele- 
ment caught fire in the creation. These things must be 
Visioned by the man at the helm and he must convey this 
fire into the minds and spirits of the publicity and sales 
departments so that they in turn believe in this product 
as much as he does himself. 

Now the trailer must be prepared. This is that brief 
bit of picture used as a teaser or bait to motion-picture 
audiences the week or two weeks before the picture is to 
appear in the house using the trailer. It is composed of the 



14 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

most interesting and colorful parts of the picture, but must 
never reveal the story or detract in any way from the sus- 
pense of the picture itself. It must show not too much but 
too little, so that the audience will greatly desire to see 
the picture itself. 

We hope that by now the tide of the picture has been 
finally set. If not, all the publicity sent out by the pub- 
licity department during the shooting has been largely 
wasted. Yet, in many cases, the exact title is not set until 
the final editing and is often a source of considerable dif- 
ficulty at this time. Then, too, credits must be assigned 
for the picture. By this is meant those acknowledgments 
at the beginning of the picture designating the individual 
in each department who is responsible for the finished pic- 
ture. This is often a source of considerable bickering, 
since as many as seven or eight writers may have had 
some share either in the original treatment, screen play or 
additional dialogue. But since the advent of the new 
Academy code a definite procedure for such assignments 
has been establishedwhich is too technical to explain here. 

Now the picture is ready for a sneak preview. By this 
is meant the custom in Hollywood of taking a rough cut 
to one of the neighborhood small towns without any pre- 
vious announcement either to the press or to the general 
studio personnel. Here the picture is shown before a typ- 
ical motion-picture audience, away from the critical and 
highly technical studio minds. By this means, the studio 
executives hope to gain some indication of the public feel- 
ing for the picture. It may be previewed as many as 
three or four times. Changes are made in the meantime, 
eliminating what seems dull and bringing into prominence 
those scenes which have received the best reaction. Per- 
haps the producer decides that it is necessary to shoot 



THE PRODUCER MAKES A PLAN 15 

certain scenes, which were not in the script, for the sake 
of story clarity, or perhaps it is necessary to shoot other 
scenes of which no satisfactory takes have been made. In 
this case, the sets are redressed and the actors recalled. 
The picture is now in such shape, we hope, as to per- 
mit a preview at a Hollywood theater to which the mem- 
bers of the trade press are invited. The associate producer 
now awaits the reviews of the Hollywood Reporter and 
Daily Variety which appear the next morning. Then he 
must await the verdict at the box office, but he does not 
wait idly. The finished motion picture is a collective artis- 
tic endeavor; it bears the signatures of perhaps ten artists, 
each of whom has contributed something to the whole. 
Yet the most important signature of all is the one least 
noted, the signature of the associate producer who has 
fused a thousand elements into a unified whole for better 
or for worse. 



II 

LOOKING FOR A STORY 

Samuel Marx 



TASK of finding a suitable screen story is as 
JL difficult as any in all Hollywood, where practically 
everything done is impossible. 

Hollywood is an incredible, mythical kingdom. All you 
hear about it which you can't believe is true. Very prob- 
ably you can't believe that it's hard to find story ma- 
terial to film. But it's true. 

The larger studios comb through twenty thousand 
stories a year in order to find fifty. The twenty thousand 
are the better magazine stories, foreign and American 
plays, novels published throughout the world, and stories 
created directly for the screen by authors of known repu- 
tation. From these sources the studios find twenty thou- 
sand pieces of material to consider. They do not always 
find the fifty stories to film. 

Merely collecting this voluminous mass of literary ma- 
terial demands a world organization of great proportions. 
Story scouts are stationed in the important capitals of 
Europe. The recent rise of English film production has 
forced American film producers to spring into action 
when a likely English play appears. Hollywood is thou- 
sands of miles away. But the curtain hardly begins its 

16 



LOOKING FOR A STORY 17 

descent at the premiere before details of the plot are on 
their way to Hollywood. 

In our own country, New York City still remains the 
happy hunting ground of the Hollywood story depart- 
ments. Magazine and book publishers have not been lured 
West by climate or gold. Play producers, battling against 
great odds, have maintained Broadway as the theatrical 
center of the world. There will always be important plays 
and books appearing in New York, about which little has 
been heard in advance. So a staff of editors and readers 
comb the Manhattan creative marts, and their findings, 
together with the findings of London, Paris, Budapest and 
points east, come to the desk of the studio story editor. 
Out of this endless parade the overwhelming majority of 
stories annually land on the shelf. But a few will be chosen 
for the screen. Let's go with these to Hollywood and see 
what happens next. 

The story editor is entrusted with the task of sifting 
the stories, selecting the possibilities, eliminating the im- 
possibilities. Because he is physically unable to read every 
submission in its entirety, a corps of readers reduces the 
basic material to synopsis form. The New York office 
maintains a staff of these readers; the studio employs a 
complete department of readers, sometimes numbering over 
a dozen. A competent reader reduces the elements of a 
story plot to a synopsis of from one to twenty pages, 
briefly adding his own opinion of its celluloid possibilities. 

Stories dealing with miscegenation, dope, capital and 
labor difficulties, racial questions, sensational sex problems 
and subjects likely to arouse international disfavor, may 
all be dismissed at first glance. It isn't that the editor 
would have it so. Neither would the producer. Often, 
when story material reaches its low ebb, they yearn for 



1 8 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

the right to dare one of these forbidden properties. But 
censor boards are watchfully waiting; governments can- 
not be cajoled; and millions of dollars may be lost in the 
effort. The story editor tosses the tempting morsel aside 
. . . picks up the newest variation of Cinderella, The Ugly 
Duckling, The Sleeping Beauty . . . waits, as he reads, 
to see if boy meets girl, or girl meets boss, or boy meets 
football team. 

Just as he knows what is taboo, so the editor keeps in- 
formed on what he needs. Stories must be bought well in 
advance if they are to be converted into scenarios. The 
studio has expensive stars under contract, each possessing 
an individual talent and a comparatively short profes- 
sional life. The story must not be too similar to the star's 
previous pictures, yet within the realm of the star's capa- 
bilities. It cannot differ too much from the star's successes 
because the public does not like to see the star in an un- 
familiar type of role. It is when a star appears in material 
perfectly suited to what the public wants, that a "box office 
success" emerges. 

A good editor knows he cannot make rules about stories. 
Editors who live by rules always have to change them. 
Films about Hollywood were long considered undesirable. 
Once in a Lifetime, Bombshell, What Price Hollywood, 
all excellent, proved to three separate companies that this 
was a good rule. The public didn't want stories about 
Hollywood, they said, and repeated it right up to the day 
A Star is Born began breaking records. So the editor, if 
he is wise, eliminates these prejudices from his judgment 
and delves into his weekly collection of possibilities. 

Not aU. stories are written on paper. A new problem has 
arisen in editorial life. Not only must he be able to read, 
the story editor must now be a good listener, too. Estab- 



LOOKING FOR A STORY 19 

lished screen writers have begun to show a preference for 
"telling" their stories instead of writing them. They claim 
that in this way the studio can determine any changes 
needed before the indelible words are placed on paper. 

This new way of presenting original stories is partly due 
to an otherwise industrious young man named Norman 
Krasna, who told the plot of a play he intended to write 
to a few people around Hollywood. He called it Mob Rule. 
He never wrote the play, because Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer 
purchased his verbal manuscript and produced it as Fury. 
Ever since that day Hollywood writers have been telling 
stories like fury. 

Mentioning Hollywood writers seems to call for one 
paragraph, at least, on such an interesting subject. When 
talking pictures arrived, a little less than a decade ago, 
writing was a necessary but inconsequential evil connected 
with making movies. Anybody who owned a pencil could 
be a writer then, and unless he wrote tides he didn't need 
to know how to spell. Talkies changed that, and as pro- 
ducers educated the public to want better scenes and 
dialogue, they found it necessary to meet that demand with 
finer writing. The result has been an increasing array of the 
best writing talent in the world in Hollywood. Some of the 
older writers have weathered the silent era and the sound, 
and moved ahead with the times. Some writers are best at 
story construction. Some writers are best at dialogue. The 
story editor grows to classify their abilities; he must know 
on whom to call for a particular specialty. The best Holly- 
wood writers, however, are those who can supply all the 
requirements of writing a screen play, and turn in a com- 
pleted piece of work. 

Formerly there was a hue and cry in the land if a well- 
known book or play reached the screen in form different 



20 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

from the original. The screen was too prone, its critics said, 
to change plots in the course of translating them to cellu- 
loid. We rarely hear the complaint today. It isn't because 
the screen changes less. The screen today may change plots 
legitimately. The writers working in the story department 
at Samuel Goldwyn's include Anita Loos, Lillian Hellman, 
Dorothy Parker, Donald Ogden Stewart, Sidney Howard, 
Robert E. Sherwood and Ben Hecht. These screen play- 
wrights are generally superior to the material available for 
them to work on, and any changes made by them are likely 
to be for the better. 

All pictures are dependent upon ideas. Millions are in- 
vested in nebulous ideas. As story editor of Metro-Gold- 
wyn-Mayer, it was my daily routine to advise the late 
Irving Thalberg of new literary ideas throughout the 
world. In his office, late one evening, I casually mentioned 
that an interesting play had appeared in New York the 
previous night, and I had wired East for the manuscript. I 
added that I knew vaguely that it concerned a World 
War soldier whose wife disappeared following an enemy 
invasion. Years later he finds a woman who looks like his 
wife, but she denies her identity although she tries to 
be everything that the other woman was to him. At no 
time does he or the audience ever learn whether she was his 
pre-war wife or not. Thalberg was ready to leave his office 
but he stopped, picked up the phone and called an M-G-M 
executive in his New York home. 

"They're asking fifty thousand for the film rights," said 
the executive. 

"Buy it," said Thalberg, and went home. 

The play, As You Desire Me by Luigi Pirandello, proved 
one of Garbo's biggest hits. In this case, of course, Thai- 




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LOOKING FOR A STORY 21 

berg knew an entire playscript had been written around 
this idea. He wasn't buying an unwritten notion. 

The Hollywood story editor has not the power to buy 
whatever story he likes. As you will learn from other chap- 
ters in this volume, movie-making is a matter of teamwork. 
In each and every phase of the translation of printed matter 
into celluloid, hand in hand co-operation is necessary. The 
finest pictures invariably result, not from individual efforts, 
but when all individuals are functioning as partners. The 
story editor, then, is really the selector of the material 
which is to be considered, and the studio trusts him to 
eliminate whatever is unworthy. But when it comes to de- 
ciding what should be bought, story editors consult pro- 
ducers, directors, stars and writers. 

As an example of how stories are bought, let us consider 
the purchase of Grand Hotel, one of the great screen prop- 
erties of its time. Kate Corbaley, the assistant story editor 
at M-G-M, has occupied this position through the regimes 
of half a dozen story editors. Every man who has worked 
as head of the department readily admits that her inex- 
haustible knowledge and indefatigable capacity for reading 
supplies the strength of the department. One day she came 
to me with a theatrical news clipping which stated briefly 
that Reinhardt had produced a play called Menschen Im 
Hotel in Germany, and it had been a quick, decisive fail- 
ure. The clipping said that, as the title indicated, the play 
dealt with different forms of humanity passing through 
thirty-six hours in a modern hotel. Mrs. Corbaley thought 
that, in spite of its failure, this was an interesting movie 
idea and we ought to read the play. 

This play by Vicki Baum arrived in German, so I passed 
it over to a contract director named Paul Fejos who could 
read the language. He was looking for a story to direct, 



22 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

and was most enthusiastic about the German play. He told 
us the story and we decided to buy it. That was where 
an obstacle arose. A New York merchant named Harry 
Moses had been traveling in Europe that year and hap- 
pened to see the play at Reinhardt's Theatre during its 
brief run. Anxious to dabble in theatricals, he had pur- 
chased all rights for five thousand dollars. He was sum- 
moned to the M-G-M office where he refused to part with 
the film rights, because he wanted to produce it as a play 
himself. Finally he thought that if M-G-M wanted to share 
the cost of the stage production with him he would turn 
over the movie rights to them, also returning their in- 
vestment from any profits which the play might show. 
This information was conveyed to the studio. It was esti- 
mated that the play could be put on for twenty-seven 
thousand dollars; the film company and Moses were each 
to put up half. It was agreed. 

The film company was pleased to get the film rights, 
but thirteen thousand five hundred dollars was a large in- 
vestment and there was some talk of safeguarding it. After 
all, Moses admittedly knew nothing about show business 
at that time. So the company demanded that Moses affi- 
liate himself with some tried stage producer. He went 
touring Broadway one night, stopping in to see an im- 
pressive melodrama called The Last Mile. The producer 
was Herman Shumlin, whom he asked to participate in 
Grand Hotel. He was willing. The play became a world 
sensation and M-G-M owned the movie rights without 
cost. 

I have already explained why I feel Hollywood has the 
right to change material it has bought and paid for. Story 
conferences take place immediately after a book has been 
purchased, or when the screen play is complete and needs 



LOOKING FOR A STORY 23 

revisions, and sometimes even when the film has been shot, 
but requires retakes. Sometimes an entire story is thrown 
out after a story conference. Sometimes a studio staff 
spends days trying to find one appropriate line and some- 
times story conferences are held without writers. The 
producer and the director are often more practical than 
the writer. Silly as it sounds, most producers will under- 
stand what their harassed colleague meant when he said, 
"Writers only clutter up a story conference!" 

I have already mentioned some of the taboos which 
story editors must keep in mind. At one time movie pro- 
ducers were prone to offend good taste in respect to sex 
stories. That this has ceased is due in a measure to pub- 
lic objection. The most important taboo today condemns 
the story which may arouse political displeasure. Predict- 
ing the reaction of a remote censor in some far-flung cor- 
ner of the earth is not easy. Peru banned that excellent 
document, The Informer, because it showed rebellion 
against authority. Yet the film was passed in Hungary, 
where censors banned Green Pastures because it might mis- 
lead Hungarian minds with respect to religion. The Peru- 
vians who were deprived of The Informer were permitted 
to see Green Pastures. Two high spots in censorial in- 
sanity occurred when a Japanese protector of morals 
banned a Betty Boop cartoon for reasons unknown; when 
Poland deleted the lyrics of OF Man River from Show 
Boat because they implied class struggle. 

The film producers are being faced with two alterna- 
tives as a result of this kind of censorship. They can ac- 
cept all rulings and simply lose the revenue, or they can 
fight. So far they have chosen the first alternative, which 
is a practical although regrettable choice. The more lee- 
way the censor is given, the more he wants. 



24 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

Some of the examples quoted above show the folly of 
political censorship and why it must be combated. Turkey 
has forbidden production of Franz Werfel's great docu- 
ment on intolerance, The Forty Days of Musa Dagh. Here 
is a good test case for the coming war against censor- 
ship. Turkey alone cannot fight against the production of 
this film. The total film rental from all the theaters in 
Turkey hardly equals one good week in a Broadway first- 
run house. So the Turkish censor cannily won the con- 
sent of the diplomatic representatives of nations friendly 
to Turkey in banning the film if it should ever be pro- 
duced. Although the would-be producers pointed out 
that the book dealt with Turkish authorities no longer in 
power, it was of no avail. A Turk, apparently, is a Turk, 
even if a revolution has destroyed him. To date, Turkey 
has won its quarrel with Hollywood. The scenario of 
The Forty Days, complete and ready to shoot, gathers 
dust on a shelf. 

To circumvent the extravagance of purchasing stories 
which cannot be filmed, Will Hays' Association of Motion 
Picture Producers formulated a Code of permissible ac- 
tion. This Code is not infallible; it cannot guarantee a pic- 
ture against censorship such as that which stymies The 
Forty Days. But it contains valuable instructions calcu- 
lated to reduce censorship troubles. The Code strives to 
maintain correct standards of morals on the screen; fights 
any tendency to audience sympathy for crime or sin. Be- 
cause of this code, you are not likely to see close-ups of 
death, pictures dealing with dope, sexual perversion or 
nudity, or themes ridiculing worthy endeavors. 

Studio members of the Association also submit ques- 
tionable new books and plays to this office before pur- 
chase. In addition, the Hays office covers each premiere in 



LOOKING FOR A STORY 25 

Manhattan and reports censorable probabilities in connec- 
tion with these new plays. Sometimes they pass material 
with the implication that their word is not final and should 
be submitted elsewhere. Such was the case with an amusing 
novel entitled L' Affaire Jones. The plot of the story con- 
cerned itself with the excitable French temperament; how 
a shy American tourist, involved in a boulevard argument 
over an umbrella, caused an enormous national scandal. 
The Hays office had no objections to filming this story, 
provided the French had none either. They recommended 
that the studio submit the book to the French Consul in 
Los Angeles. He promptly turned it down. 

An effort by a studio to find some way out of a Hays 
ruling led to a disastrous suit for plagiarism rather than 
serious censor difficulties. The suit was a disaster for the 
studio, which wanted to do Dishonored Lady with Joan 
Crawford. They felt the character admirably suited to this 
star. But the Hays office banned the play from the screen, 
because it showed a young woman literally getting away 
with murder. This play was based upon an actual murder 
case which had occurred many years ago in England. It 
had served as a subject for many authors, and this time 
was treated by Mrs. Belloc-Lowndes under the tide of 
Letty Lynton. Because the novelist handled her subject 
differently from Margaret Ayer Barnes and Charles Shel- 
don, the playwrights, the studio was permitted to buy the 
book. They were sued, and the courts ruled that the 
studio had helped itself to ingredients of the play. 

A great menace to the production of motion pictures is 
the plagiarism suit. There is hardly a film released which 
is not the target of unscrupulous literary sharpshooters. 
Shysters constantly plague the film companies, hoping for 
a settlement made out of court for sheer nuisance value. 



26 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

Most of these unfair cases are thrown out immediately by 
discerning judges, and studios have found some relief since 
plaintiffs are assessed all costs of unsuccessful suits. But, 
due to real or fancied grievances, each film is sued for new 
or strange reasons. The first picture depicting The Thin 
Mem contained a scene in which the players were halted 
at every tree and post by an inquisitive dog on a leash. This 
bit of business prompted a lawsuit by an amateur author 
who felt he had described such action in a story which 
he admitted was nothing like The Thin Man. The film 
company which produced Wife vs. Secretary was sued by 
a magazine illustrator who claimed he recognized one of 
his illustrations framed on the wall of an office set. The 
illustration was out of focus, could only be recognized 
by the artist himself, yet he sued for fifty thousand dol- 
lars' damages. As the world knows, the producers of Ras- 
putin md the Empress paid Prince Yousopoff one hundred 
and twenty-five thousand dollars as the result of a verdict 
in the British courts. Yousopoff successfully contended that 
he actually was the prototype of a fictitious Prince Chego- 
dieff in the film. Yousopoff's check had hardly cleared the 
banks when the producers were sued by a Prince Chego- 
dieff because he never did any of the things depicted by the 
film actor. 

You can see, therefore, why studios have some right 
to be hesitant in dealings with the outside world. Every 
story accepted for consideration is potential dynamite, 
capable of exploding without warning in any courthouse. 
Tremendous honesty is demanded of the studios by indi- 
viduals who may have no personal standards of honesty 
whatsoever. By dealing with produced plays and published 
books, all manner of witnesses are available to testify re- 



LOOKING FOR A STORY 2J 

garding story points. When an amateur submits an original 
manuscript, it's the word of one man against another. 

Because I feel that the motion-picture industry needs 
the ideas of creative individuals regardless of their profes- 
sional standing, it is my intention to be encouraging in 
spite of the gloomy examples already described. It is pos- 
sible that readers of this book may want to write stories 
for the movies, so I'll complete this chapter with a few ob- 
servations on that interesting possibility. 

Fifty thousand dollars was quite a sum, six years ago, 
when As You Desire Me was purchased. But as this article 
is being written, Radio Pictures are making out a check 
to the authors of "Room Service for two hundred and fifty- 
five thousand dollars. 

Plays have always cost the studios most money; always 
will. The reason is obvious enough: of all types of ma- 
terial the playscript most approximates the scenario. In 
this past decade, dialogue has become the most valuable in- 
gredient of the screen story. Plays contain relatively most 
dialogue; hence plays are more desirable than novels and 
originals. 

For this same reason, plays have lately composed the bulk 
of material purchased for the screen. Studios avidly read all 
plays, usually regardless of whether they have been pro- 
duced on the stage or not. However, in studio estima- 
tion, a produced play is of greater value to the screen than 
an unproduced one. This is because the play has received 
public approbation and, as in the case of a success like 
Room Service, it warrants the expenditure of a huge sum 
for the right to film it. 

There is an example of motion-picture studio judgment 
in connection with this. A play called Home, James, by 
A. E. Thomas, was tried out at Netcong, New Jersey, 



28 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

and I advocated its purchase. The author was willing to 
drop its Broadway chances and sell directly to the films for 
fifteen thousand dollars. The studio decided not to buy, 
so the play went on to become a Broadway success shortly 
afterwards under the tide No More Ladies. The studio 
promptly bought it for sixty-five thousand dollars. They 
were quite unperturbed that this delayed decision cost 
them an additional fifty thousand dollars; they felt the 
public approval of the story was worth the difference. 

The original screen story has ultimately to come into its 
own as a source of screen material. That this has Got yet 
occurred is due mainly to the writers rather than the 
studios. Writers are too prone to write "down" to the 
screen fail to approach original screen material with any- 
thing like the reverence they have for their book and play 
outlets. 

But these original stories, written directly for the screen, 
continue to gain ground as big movie hits spring from them. 
In recent months outstanding films like The Life of Zola, 
Libeled Lady and Lloyds of London have done much to 
impress the producers with the possibilities of originals. 

It is not difficult to write for pictures. Furthermore, the 
demand for stories is far greater than the supply. Here is 
one market still untouched by the depression. But a great 
deal depends on the manner in which this market is ap- 
proached. 

When a writer wants a book published (at an approxi- 
mate cost to the publishers of five thousand dollars) he 
writes the whole book. When a playwright desires a play 
produced (which will cost Mr. Producer something be- 
tween a thousand and twenty thousand dollars) he first 
writes the whole play. But men and women who think they 
can write movies (costing upwards of one hundred thou- 



LOOKING FOR A STORY 29 

sand dollars) try to dispose of their wares by putting the 
idea down on the back of a postal card. This is hardly an 
intelligent approach. 

True, movie producers boil stories down to a mere out- 
line when the real work of adapting material to the screen 
begins. They want a comprehensive treatment of the story. 
This motion-picture treatment contains the elements neces- 
sary for the sound microphone and camera. It excludes 
all elements which the camera cannot film, the microphone 
cannot record. Frances Marion, ablest of scenarists for 
many years, never attempts a treatment under a hundred 
typewritten pages. This is also true of her original stories 
for the screen, of which you will surely remember Min 
and Bill y The Champ, or The Big House. 

I can hear your question already. Suppose I write my 
hundred-page original story. What do I do with it? 

While it is true that Hollywood studios usually turn 
heartless backs on the neophyte, the story editors have been 
known to accept material if the writer presents a good 
case. Write your story, then drop a note to the editor of 
the studio to which you believe the story is best fitted for 
production. It may be they possess a certain star you 
visualize for the story. It's quite possible that the editor will 
accept such a story when he won't accept a brief outline. 
Flaws in construction, formlessness, or lack of theme, can 
often be glossed over in an outline, so the studio refuses 
to consider such material from the amateur. But in a well- 
developed piece of material there may be elements worth 
consideration. The editor may break his rule. It could hap- 
pen. It has happened. 

If it fails in your case, there are reputable literary agents 
in Hollywood and New York who will accept material 
from new writers and consider it. They can submit it to 



30 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

the studio. Don't try to break into scenario writing by join- 
ing some correspondence school which claims to open an 
inside track for you. In the seven years I have helped pur- 
chase movie stories, I have never bought one from a 
scenario school pupil. In fact, I have never knowingly read 
one. 

There are some practical rules to be observed in writing 
for the screen. Remember you are competing with the 
world's output of fine literature and dramatic material. 
Therefore don't try to write ordinary material, believing 
that because it resembles movies you have seen it stands a 
good chance of being bought. The opposite is true. It 
stands no chance at aU. 

If your story is to attract the producer it must be fresh 
material, off the beaten track. Originality of theme is defi- 
nitely Rule Number One. 

New backgrounds are always desirable in movie mate- 
rial. Background pictures have always been interesting and 
generally successful. By background pictures I mean Dead 
End, which deals with an unusual section of New York; 
Roar of the Crowd, which deals with pictorially exciting 
auto racing; Captains Courageous, with its extraordinary 
fishing life. Against these backgrounds a playwright, 
scenarist, and novelist, respectively, juxtaposed interesting 
characters in keeping with the locale. So let's call the selec- 
tion of a fine photographic background Rule Number Two. 

Rule Number Three is important from a practical stand- 
point in selling your story. Write your material for a typi- 
cal movie star rather than an unusual one. For instance, 
M-G-M has its typical star in Clark Gable, Samuel Gold- 
wyn in Gary Cooper, Paramount in Fred MacMurray, and 
Warner Brothers in Errol Flynn, These stars represent the 
romantic American type. If you fashion your story for this 



LOOKING FOR A STORY 31 

type of actor you have a story which can reasonably be 
submitted to any studio* But if you write a story suitable, 
let us say, to George Arliss, you will have trouble selling 
it anywhere, once his studio rejects it. 

There is one rule which I am forced to give to all who 
ask how to become screen writers. It is a rule to be remem- 
bered, instead of seeking advice. It should be recalled while 
waiting for inspiration. It is the most important rule of all. 
It is, in a word, WRITE! 



Ill 

THE STORY GETS A TREATMENT 
Sidney Howard 



IF ONE goes to the root of the matter, motion pictures 
are neither written nor acted, but made. It is the com- 
bination of director with cameraman which, more than 
the writer, more even than the beloved screen personality, 
gives the finished picture its life. Apart from the original 
story material, the writer's function in the making of pic- 
tures is a secondary one. Since the screen as we know 
it draws the vast bulk of its story material from books, 
periodicals and the stage with a few imaginative excur- 
sions into biography the screen writer's task is really 
a job of adaptation hack writing, cut to the dimensions of 
the director's demands. The screen does not yet ask of its 
writers much more than technical ingenuity. The present 
purpose is to describe and to discuss the screen writer's 
share in picture making, but it seems as well to admit 
forthwith that there is no immediate likelihood of litera- 
ture on celluloid. 

The process by which the screen adaptor goes to work 
is in itself designed to cancel out inspiration. Let us sup- 
pose that Mr. Sinclair Lewis has written a novel in which 
the picture studios see possibilities. The supposition is a 
reasonable one, because Mr. Lewis frequently does write 
novels and the studios are apt to covet them. The selection 

32 



THE STORY GETS A TREATMENT 33 

of Mr. Lewis's works to illustrate this chapter makes its 
writing the easier for me, moreover, because it has been 
my good fortune that I have on three occasions served 
Mr. Lewis as a screen adaptor, and much of my motion- 
picture experience derives from my work on Arroivsmith, 
Dodsivorth and It Can't Happen Here. For our purpose, 
however, Mr. Lewis has written a new novel and his agent 
has sent it to the New York offices of each of the differ- 
ent studios. 

Immediately on its receipt by each office, the book, 
manuscript or slather of galley proof will be turned over 
to an exceedingly overworked employee known as the 
reader, who will personally conduct its first faltering leaps 
towards the screen. Mindful of the fact that most pic- 
ture executives are busy, busy men who would not be 
given to reading under any conditions, the reader pro- 
ceeds to reduce Mr. Lewis's work to a brief and inevitably 
inadequate synopsis, embodying the high lights of the 
story, any morals pointed, remarks on the likelihood of its 
popularity, and adding his own critique in which, the book 
being Mr. Lewis's, he almost certainly recommends buy- 
ing the picture rights. Then ensues a period, of intense in- 
terest to any man of Mr. Lewis's literary attainments, 
during which the different studios compete with each other 
in offering large sums of money for the motion-picture 
rights to the preceding six months of the novelist's life. 

The period of competitive bidding terminated, Mr. 
Lewis disappears from die arena. Economically he is bet- 
ter off than when he entered it. Artistically he is much 
the same. A book is a book and a picture is a picture, and 
Mr. Lewis will not again be given a moment's thought 
by anyone until, three days preceding the picture's release, 
the studio publicity office remembers that he won the 



34 W E MAKE THE MOVIES 

Nobel Prize and invites him to a private showing of the 
picture in exchange for an endorsement to the effect that 
the picture is ever so much better than the original novel. 
I may remark in passing (and from experience) that Mr. 
Lewis is afflicted with a kindliness towards his stage and 
screen adaptors which amounts to an aberration as yet un- 
named by psychiatrists. The screen hack (or adaptor, as 
we prefer to be called) begins his labors immediately after 
Mr. Lewis's first payment has been handed over. 

He may begin in a variety of ways according to his 
position in Hollywood's slant on the writing craft. If he 
is what is known as a New York writer that is a term 
employed to cover all writers who are not residents of 
Hollywood he will be summoned to interview an impor- 
tant metropolitan executive who has not read the book, 
may have glanced through the reader's brief synopsis, but 
is expert at conveying-the-impression with just the suit- 
able amount of literary enthusiasm. Arrangements being 
concluded between the executive on the one hand and the 
writer's financial obligations on the other, the first discus- 
sion of the screen version of Mr. Lewis's latest terminates 
in an argument over whether the writer shall fly to Holly- 
wood or take the train. The New York executives of 
studios almost invariably, I have found, advocate flying 
for writers, though very few of them would think of fly- 
ing themselves. They are all husbands and fathers. So are a 
good many writers, and poor sailors to boot. The major 
consideration, however, is always the pressure of time. The 
picture so the writer is told must be ready for pro- 
duction in virtually no time at all. Wherefore, and not 
'knowing that he has a year and a half to spare, he boards 
the overnight plane to Los Angeles, there to report to a pro- 
ducer who probably is too busy with golf or the races or 



THE STORY GETS A TREATMENT 35 

his favorite endocrinologist to see him during the interval 
between his arrival and his first two or three weekly salary 
checks. This interval the writer will employ in thinking 
how he will spend his salary and making sure that his 
studio office is equipped with all the supplies he would 
never dream of buying for himself. He may even reread 
Mr* Lewis's novel. 

All screen writers, however, are not New York writers, 
nor even high-salaried members of the Hollywood studios' 
literary staffs. It is just possible that the studio which has 
bought Mr. Lewis's novel may have no immediate plans 
for it. Every studio has on its pay roll a group of so- 
called "younger writers," ranging in age from eighteen to 
sixty, who draw very small salaries, sit in very small offices 
and, because they have not acquired a thing known in 
Hollywood as "prestige," waste their lives in the process 
of being "broken in." It is not impossible that Mr. Lewis's 
novel may pause for a time to further the "breaking in" 
of one of these mute, inglorious Miltons. Here it will be 
developed into a full-length motion-picture script which 
no one will ever read. Inasmuch as this step in our story 
is almost invariably a dead end, we may, as the studios 
do, proceed, as though it had never been, to the day on 
which our New York writer has been called to his first 
story conference. 

I am aware that a great deal of fun has been poked at 
Hollywood story conferences and that most of it has now 
grown stale. It must be obvious, however, that the first 
story conference is an essential milepost in die screen 
writer's contribution to the making of the picture. It is 
"then that he tells the producer and the director the story 
of the picture which the one is to produce and the other 
to direct. I have often thought that this constitutes the 



36 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

most important function that he has to perform, because 
directors and producers are notably reluctant readers. 

Our hypothetical story being the work of Mr. Lewis, 
neither director nor producer has any fault to find with 
it yet. In fact the first story conference is almost certain 
to end on a note of amiable optimism. The writer has a 
great angle on the material, the director is going to do a 
great job of direction, the star is going to be great in his 
or her role, a great picture is going to be made. The writer 
retires to his office and office supplies to write what is 
known as the treatment. 

Now the treatment is a description on paper of just how 
the screen writer plans to make Mr. Lewis's novel into a 
picture. JL!C will by this time have made himself so familiar 
with the book that he knows it better even than Mr. Lewis, 
who forgets his own books with a happy alacrity. The 
writer may employ two or three styles in the writing of 
the treatment. Many, I have noticed, go in for highly col- 
ored expression and become, so to speak, barkers for the 
job they are about to do. This style went well with pro- 
ducers of the old school, but its effect is not guaranteed 
on the more recent models. Some writers, in what I con- 
sider a mistaken honesty, adopt an aseptic attitude in the 
writing of their treatments: that is to say, they tell the 
producer exactly what he is going to get. This I do not 
recommend. To begin with, it is impossible in summary to 
say clearly what any picture is going to be like. One can- 
not, for example, sum up characterizations. The producer, 
furthermore, at least in the early stages, always wants more 
than he is going to get and the style I have employed and 
found most successful is the informal but reassuring ap- 
proach, the kind of thing the late Henry Van Dyke would 
have done as a preface to a young poet's first volume of 




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THE STORY GETS A TREATMENT 37 

poems. The main object, after all, is to tell the producer 
that everything is going to be all right, which, at this early 
point, he is only too willing to believe. 

Once the treatment has been accepted with slight modi- 
fications at a second story conference, the writer proceeds 
to write his first draft of the script itself. It is not well to 
put too much of one's heart into this first draft. There was 
once a writer who explained his failure with an adaptation 
by claiming that he made the mistake of writing bos fifth 
draft first. This somewhat enigmatic remark will become 
clearer as our discussion proceeds. 

For myself, whenever I start writing my first draft of 
a screen adaptation, I find fault with the whole process 
up to this point. I discover that long before I have had 
opportunity to develop any convictions of my own, I am 
seriously confused by the unconsidered opinions which 
have been thrust at me and which have distorted any in- 
tention I may have had when I wrote my treatment. I 
proceed therefore on the theory that the sooner the first 
draft is on paper the sooner the real work will begin. 
My single object is to put the book roughly into picture 
form, sequence by sequence and scene by scene, including 
in it as many picture ideas as may occur to me, but mak- 
ing no particular effort towards a finished script. 

The process of reducing a novel to picture form is 
really much the same as that of dramatizing it for the stage. 
Plays, however, have in great measure to be re-dramatized 
in order satisfactorily to fulfill the screen's demands. A 
novel is a story which its author tells without any help 
from the outside. A play is a story so written that it is 
incomplete without the services of a company of actors. 
A picture is a story written to be photographed, and so 
keyed in its writing that the camera will never be called 



38 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

upon to photograph anything not visually interesting. 
Narrative, which is of great value to the novelist, is im- 
practicable on the screen until it is dramatized into those 
conflicts between characters which produce dramatic situ- 
ations in photographable action. The play scene in which 
two actors may sit on a sofa and discuss matters of en- 
grossing interest to the theater audience is impracticable 
on the screen because it is dull to photograph. Two illus- 
trations occur to me. 

It will be remembered that the crucial situation of Mr. 
Lewis's Arrowsmith has to do with an experiment per- 
formable only upon human beings, the purpose of which 
is to test an inoculation against the bubonic plague. Martin 
Arrowsmith goes to the scene of a West Indian epidemic 
committed to dividing the possible victims into two lots. 
One lot is to be inoculated, the other to be left without 
inoculation. The observed results are to constitute the sub- 
stantiation or discrediting of the inoculation. Mr. Lewis 
spends a considerable portion of his book on making this 
clear in scenes which, though fascinating to read, would 
have been deadly to photograph. After Arrowsmith has 
worked out an entire series of preliminary experiments, he 
and his chief, Gottlieb, discuss the problem in long pas- 
sages of scientific dialogue. 

When we came to making all this clear and interesting 
in the screen version, Mr. John Ford, the director, and 
I had to devise an entirely new episode for the early part 
of our picture, basing it upon an incident which Mr. Lewis 
had mentioned only in passing. We took a moment, in that 
portion of the novel which deals with Arrowsmith's early 
career as a country doctor, to develop a local cattle epi- 
demic in the course of which Arrowsmith divided the 
cows in a single barn into two lots, inoculating one lot and 



THE STORY GETS A TREATMENT 39 

leaving the other unprotected. We made this interesting 
by building it up into a fist fight between Arrowsmith and 
the State veterinarian. Its real value, however, lay in the 
single shot in which Arrowsmith was able to point to the 
healthy condition of the inoculated cows and to the empty 
stalls of the uninoculated. Then, when we came to our 
climax, Arrowsmith required only one reference to those 
cows in Dakota and the picture could move on without 
delay to its climax. 

My other illustration has to do with the transferring of 
a play scene to the screen. In the third act of the play I 
made from Mr. Lewis's Dodsworth, which I subsequently 
re-dramatized for the screen, there occurs a scene in the 
American Express office in Naples. In this scene Dods- 
worth, abandoned by his wife, now a lonely traveler 
through Italy, re-encounters Mrs. Cortright, the second 
woman of the story. The thing on the stage was simple 
enough. Mr. Huston as Dodsworth and Miss Sunderland 
as Mrs. Cortright sat down on a bench and said the things 
which had to be said in order to advance the story. In Mr. 
Goldwyn's screen version, if the two actors sat down at all 
it was only for a moment. Then, still speaking the lines of 
the play, they moved out of the office and got into an auto- 
mobile to drive through the streets of Naples. For this 
ride the conscientious Mr. Goldwyn had, through his for- 
eign photographers, provided actual Neapolitan back- 
grounds. Thus, by a simple screen device, a play scene 
which would have been photographically uninteresting be- 
came one of the more notable moments of the picture. 

In my opinion, novels make better pictures than plays. 
The playwright selects for his material a story which is 
most effectively tgld within the scenic limitations of the 
stage and is likely to suffer from overelaboration on the 



40 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

screen. The screening of a play requires expansion, which 
is bad for a work of art. The screening of a novel, by 
contrast, requires contraction, which is apt to be good. 

The motion-picture form lies somewhere between the 
novel and the play. It rejoices in at least the geographic 
freedom of the novel because it can move easily from 
place to place as a play cannot. However, the motion pic- 
ture must do without the repose of either novel or play, 
and therefore without the reflective expansion of either 
idea or emotion. It has its own and most rigorous tech- 
nique, which is best described by saying that a moving 
photograph must move and keep moving. In other words, 
its story, to be well told, must be told continuously in 
action. What the characters think or feel on the screen 
must be expressed by doing, and only strong and clear 
thoughts and emotions can be expected to pierce through 
a medium which, even in color, lacks the reality of the 
flesh and blood of the stage on the one hand and of the 
novelist's personal spell on the other. 

The talking picture should if possible never pause to 
talk about itself. This is a lesson which many directors and 
writers of Hollywood have still to learn. One still sees too 
many picture scenes which are no more than photographed 
play scenes. By this I mean scenes in which the director 
has deluded himself into the belief that he is satisfying 
the action demands of the picture medium by moving his 
camera round and about a theater stage and cutting from 
close-up of A to close-up of B. 

It has been said that the dialogue scenes of talking pic- 
tures should be written as though each were a full-rate 
cable for every word of which the writer has to pay out 
of his own pocket. Length hangs like doom over any pic- 
ture. Wonderful as the motion-picture camera is, it is still 



THE STORY GETS A TREATMENT 41 

a piece of machinery, and photographs of actors and 
actresses are not living actors and actresses. It is probably 
this removal from reality or, if you like, from contact 
with a living imitation of lifethat so sharply restricts the 
time accorded a picture for the telling of its story. Audi- 
ences will sit in the theater and watch living actors with 
complete contentment for two hours and a half and, when 
they are remarkable actors in a remarkable play, for close 
on three hours. It does not matter how excellent a picture 
may be, it is, in my opinion, too long if it runs beyond an 
hour and a half. Even as fine a thing as the screen version 
of Mutiny on the Bounty and that is a fine thing, judged 
by any artistic standards seems too long to me. Thus the 
impression of the freedom of the motion-picture medium 
is largely an illusion. I have more than once struggled with 
the writing of sequences which were technically as diffi- 
cult and as limited as the sonnet. 

Furthermore, each new mechanical development of the 
screen seems to increase the exigencies of screen writing. 
Some ten years ago, the invention of sound altered the 
entire approach for director and writer as well as for actor. 
The difficulties of writing for color pictures are still to be 
explored. Color is far more than a technical addition. It 
will, in my opinion, alter the approach to picture making 
quite as profoundly as did the introduction of sound ten 
years ago. I do not know how many directors and writers 
will at this time be prepared to agree with me when I 
say that I find the problems of color far more baffling than 
those of sound. They seem to require me to develop a 
painter's imagination to a degree of which I am incapable. 
Black and white photography has its own visual continuity. 
It can move from walnut library to summer garden or 
from Greenland to the Sudan without any sudden shock 



42 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

to the eye. The color picture cannot take such liberties. 
In black and white, for example, we can send our hero to 
his library window, cut without shock to a brief flash of 
what he sees out-of-doors and return again to the library. 
That cut will, in color, be both unsightly and distracting, 
because it is not a shift from darker to lighter gradations 
of black and white but from dark brown to pink, yellow 
and green. We shall be required now to work out a new 
and more subtle method of moving from place to place. 
We shall also, I believe, have to invent a way of writing 
and directing our scenes so that the relative values of their 
compositions will maintain some degree of visual balance. 
I remember very clearly my dismay as I first watched Mr. 
Robert Edmond Jones's production of Becky Sharp, a 
picture produced in color but directed according to the 
usages of black and white. In that picture, scene after 
scene began with the most beautifully composed arrange- 
ment of color, only to disintegrate immediately the action 
started into such confusion that I found it difficult even 
to follow the story. 

But I am again digressing from my account of the screen 
writer's job. I adopt my system of being generous with 
myself on my first draft of a picture script because I know 
that no one is going to pay much, if any, attention to it 
except the director, who, under ideal conditions, now be- 
comes my dominant collaborator. The opening sentence 
of this chapter states that pictures are made, not written, 
and the director has to make them. When, therefore, the 
director and the writer sit down together, it becomes the 
writer's duty to say to the director: "How do you pro- 
pose using your camera? How do you propose handling 
the action in the best photographic interests of the story 
you are going to tell?" 



THE STORY GETS A TREATMENT 43 

The director now proceeds to contribute his ideas and 
the script begins to take the form of a motion picture. 
There are still directors who like their manuscripts divided 
into many hundreds of little scenes: close-up, medium shot, 
long shot. The more modern director, however, prefers a 
manuscript which reads as simply as a play. He will wait, 
even beyond the actual shooting, until the assembling of 
the film before he makes up his mind concerning the more 
technical details. 

I have found it valuable to include the studio's art direc- 
tor in this collaboration, because even the most gifted of 
directors can, if he is willing, make good use of the art 
director's exclusively visual type of mind. The larger 
studios of Hollywood divide their picture making into 
various departments which have little contact with one 
another. Smaller production units, notably Mr. Samuel 
Goldwyn's, are too clever for this. It is Mr. Goldwyn's 
custom to keep his highly gifted art director, Mr. Richard 
Day, in constant touch with the progress of the script. 
The result of this triple collaboration is a completely illus- 
trated edition de luxe of the script which contains literally 
dozens upon dozens of thumbnail sketches both of photo- 
graphic compositions and of camera angles. This method 
of working not only provides the director with invaluable 
memoranda when, finally, the cameras begin turning, but 
tends to keep the script itself a thing to be looked at rather 
than to be spoken. That, it cannot too often be repeated, is 
the all-important quality for any picture script to achieve. 

I do not know how Mr. John Ford and Mr. Dudley 
Nichols worked together in preparing the screen version 
of Liam O'Flaherty's novel The Informer, but I have al- 
ways felt all possible admiration for Mr. Nichols' work 
on that picture. It is a piece of screen writing which any 



44 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

man interested in the medium should study for its truly- 
beautiful economy, its photographical eloquence, its faith- 
ful translation of the material from one medium to an- 
other and the selfless professionalism with which the writer 
has served his director. 

At the end of a fortnight or three weeks spent on this 
second draft collaboration, the script returns to the pro- 
ducer and the real fun begins. All producers seem to be 
divided into two types. For myself, I prefer the type 
which undertakes to produce, more or less, the picture the 
director and screen writer have given him. That type of 
producer, though he may impose criticisms and amend- 
ments of his own, keeps in the track which has been laid 
down, spares director and writer no end of headaches and 
usually turns out fully as good a product as the other type. 
The other type, of which there are too many examples, 
seems to be a kind of kee-wee, as the British Royal Air 
Force used to call its ground officers after the Australian 
bird which has wings but cannot fly. By this I mean the 
producer who is neither director nor writer and would 
like to be both. 

This type of producer operates without the wisdom to 
see that another man's way of telling a story may be as 
good as his own. His determination to get his picture script 
written and rewritten until it coincides exactly with his 
own conception is more than likely to choke out the last 
germs of spontaneity and life. It frequently leads him to 
engage a whole series of writers, both in collaboration and 
in sequence. This not only wastes untold quantities of 
money such producers have more than once spent close 
on half a million dollars in screen writers' salariesbut 
deprives the finished picture of any homogeneity of style. 



THE STORY GETS A TREATMENT 45 

Producers of this type are to be avoided by the wise 
director and screen writer. 

All producers and directors seem to have one weakness 
in common. They are unwilling to face the fact that their 
scripts are too long, and proceed in the delusion that they 
will not need cutting after the film has been shot and put 
together. The picture which is cut to length in script can 
be smoothly cut and the cuts blended over so that they 
will not afterwards be apparent. The picture which is shot 
from an overlength script and cut after it has been put 
together will always show the bad joints of crude car- 
pentry. 

The script from which the picture is made it may be 
the second or the fifteenth, according to the type of pro 
ducer is called the shooting script. Before it can be made, 
however, it has to be submitted to the censorship experts 
of the Hays office and these gentlemen scrutinize it in 
their knowledge of what is permitted by the Censorship 
Boards of varying States. Their function is to warn the 
producer against the deletions which he may expect in 
any given State, if he violates any of that State's regula- 
tions. I am always sorry if I am not present at one of these 
censorship sessions because nothing gives me more pleasure 
than anger at censorship. Censorship is so inaccessible. It 
operates in its methodically remote way and one never 
gets at it. One never meets the censors. One never knows 
what type of fanatic or racketeer the censor may be. I 
find it comforting to sit in the same office with Mr. Hays' 
experts and to scream at them as though they were them- 
selves the censors, and they are accustomed to being 
screamed at and seem not to mind. 

It is healthfully infuriating to be told that storks bring 
the babies in certain States, that the word "Communist" 



4<5 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

cannot be mentioned in the Dominion of Canada, that Hit- 
ler, Mussolini and the Republican party may be offended 
by Mr. Lewis's It Carft Happen Here, which must there- 
fore be banned on the eve of its first day of shooting. 
In that connection I remember one of the most charming, 
I think, of all censorship observations. One episode in that 
unproduced script showed how Mr. Lewis's editor-hero 
escaped from the American dictator's concentration camp. 
Jessup, the editor, reaches a farmhouse in the Green 
Mountains of Vermont, where the women of his family 
are waiting to welcome and to secrete him. Among other 
things he is given a bath, in the course of which his wife 
has to scrub his back for him. No camera ever looked at 
the scene, because, as I have said, the whole enterprise 
of the picture had to be abandoned out of deference to 
Hitler, Mussolini and the Republicans. The censors, how- 
ever, warned us that the business of the back-scrubbing 
was permissible only if the actress who was to play the 
wife was cautioned never to look down. The couple were 
past fifty and had been married long enough to be grand- 
parents, but the wife must not look down, for fear, pre- 
sumably, of making some startling anatomical discovery. 
Once the criticisms of censorship have been made, the 
script proceeds to what is called the breakdown. In this 
stage of its development it is taken over by technicians 
who estimate with astounding exactitude how many days 
will be consumed in the shooting. These technicians trans- 
form the script from some hundred and twenty-odd type- 
written pages to a vast board covered with tiny tickets, 
each ticket representing a scene or set-up, and the total 
number of days' shooting produces still another crisis in 
the picture's progress, because it is the length of the shoot- 
ing schedule which most determines the ultimate cost of 



THE STORY GETS A TREATMENT 47 

the picture. The technicians work on this breakdown day 
and night until the total of days and dollars is ready. Then 
comes that final painful conference in which art perforce 
gives way to business and the writer-director collabora- 
tion has to face the music of subtracting a hundred thou- 
sand dollars from the budget. Once this is done and it 
has to be done in spite of the screams of writer and direc- 
torthe writer's contribution has been made. He is very 
seldom on hand while the picture is shot. If he is one of 
the regular Hollywood writers, his agent has shipped him 
on to pastures new. Our New York writer is free to return 
to New York or whatever part of the country he calls his 
home. He may take the train or walk if he likes. There 
is no longer any pressure on him to fly. 

There has existed among authors, and for many years, a 
great snobbery against writing for pictures. The New York 
author has been ashamed to engage himself in it and the 
screen writers have been hypersensitively defiant about it. 
There is no longer justification for either snobbery or de- 
fiance. The mechanical improvements in picture making 
have been paralleled by an equal aesthetic advance and 
closely followed by an astonishing growth in the taste of 
the picture public. With each year the best product of 
Hollywood has become increasingly beautiful to look upon 
and increasingly mature in its choice of subject matter 
until, in the pictures of Rene Glair and in such Hollywood 
offerings as Pasteur and Zola, the taste and intelligence 
of the screen public has outstripped that of the New York 
theater audience. 

However secondary the writer's function in the making 
of pictures may be, two facts should at once be conceded: 
that as long as writers earn their living by writing they 
are economic nitwits not to earn at least some of it where 



48 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

the pay is both high and certain, and that to the very vast 
majority of the international public, the screen has super- 
seded both plays and novels. In view of these facts, it is 
always amazing to me that more writers have not realisti- 
cally turned their minds to studying the technical aspects 
of screen writing. A leading Hollywood producer recently 
told me that of all the droves of writers in and out of 
Hollywood, he knows less than fifteen capable of seeing 
a script through from treatment to production. This state- 
ment may well have been colored by unfortunate ex- 
perience. It is, however, a custom in Hollywood to pro- 
vide a screen writer, who finds plenty of time to learn 
golf and contract bridge, with a continuity writer. A con- 
tinuity writer is a gentleman who shakes his head gravely 
over any idea the screen writer may have to offer and 
remarks: "That may be all right but it isn't pictures." His 
function is to relieve the writer of the obligation to learn 
his job and to complicate the already complex collabora- 
tion with his director. I have never myself had to contend 
with continuity writers, but it is undoubtedly true that 
the studios could not operate without them. Frequently 
the New York writer-hero of this chapter is, upon his 
arrival in Hollywood, given a neatly typed outline of the 
picture as it is to be made, with orders to conform to it. 
Though the producers may with some justice explain this 
condition as a result of literary laziness, I believe that the 
whole system of the employee-writer is basically an un- 
sound one. 

The creative instincts do not thrive on salary. When a 
screen writer boasts that he has managed to get twenty or 
thirty weeks of employment out of a single picture, he is, 
in my opinion, indicting the system which makes him an 
employee. The average screen adaptation of book or play 



THE STORY GETS A TREATMENT 49 

should be ready to shoot after six or eight weeks of nor- 
mally intensive work. If more time is needed, there has 
been waste somewhere. The producer will claim that the 
writer has wasted it and the writer will counter with his 
total of the days he has spent waiting for the producer to 
read what he has written. 

I cannot, in justice to the producer, refrain from one 
observation calculated to endear me to my Hollywood 
colleagues. The more fortunate of screen adaptors in 
which number I am happy to include myself are prob- 
ably the most preposterously overpaid men on the face of 
the earth: at least, we are paid as much for doing as little 
as anyone now visible to my naked eye. The producers, 
on the other hand, pay far too little for original story 
material. Novelists and their publishers have not even 
begun to claim their share of the Hollywood loot. This 
chapter is designed as a compendium of practical, rather 
than artistic, hints. Within the last year, one of the most 
illustrious of all publishing houses sold the picture rights 
to one of the outstanding successes of modern fiction for 
exactly one-fifth of the value placed on it when a second 
studio tried to repurchase it from the original buyer. It 
is time for the fraternities of novelists and publishers 
to wake up to the state of the world in which they are 
operating. 

This is not to say that there are not many screen writers 
capable of the most excellent work. The writer-director 
collaborations of Hollywood produce a round dozen of 
first-class picture scripts every year. I have already paid 
my respects to Dudley Nichols' version of The Informer. 
I can scarcely say less of Mr. Robert Riskin as Frank 
Capra's collaborator in those two most enchanting film 
comedies, It Happened One Night and Mr. Deeds Goes 



50 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

to Town. Talbot Jennings, once an original author of dis- 
tinguished accomplishment, did remarkably by Mutiny 
on the Bounty. 

The fact remains that the hundreds of screen plays 
turned out each year by the Hollywood studios contain 
few if any more items of real excellence than are to be 
found among the few dozen stage plays of the New York 
or London theatrical season. The obvious moral of this is 
that the money which builds and equips studio plants 
and motion-picture theaters can neither build nor equip 
a talent for writing. The more fundamental explanation 
of it is that literary talents seem to derive most satisfac- 
tion from being left to their own independent devices be- 
tween the bindings of books and in the dingy and dusty 
reaches of back-stage. 

The screen will get most from its writers, and the writ- 
ers most from the screen, when motion-picture bookkeep- 
ing and business methods have been so revised that the 
author of a picture is paid a royalty on its gross receipts 
and not a salary while he is writing it. Why I should be 
paid a salary while I am adapting a novel to the screen 
and a royalty when I dramatize the same novel for the 
stage I do not understand. I do know, however, that in 
the studio I am through on receipt of my last salary check, 
whereas in the theater I am at work up to the last moment 
before the opening night, because, being human, I know 
that my reward is still to come and depends upon my 
doing my very utmost. Art, like a great deal else, is made 
more interesting by financial returns. The screen will pres- 
ently have to revise its method of dealing with its writers, 
just as writers will have to revalue their attitude towards 
the screen. 

This is all the more true because the screen is rapidly 



THE STORY GETS A TREATMENT 51 

running short of material. Contemporary literature no 
longer supplies the demand. A Hollywood story editor 
has complained to me that authors these days are fall- 
ing down on their job. Screen material used to be easily 
found. Now he must read hundreds of plays, novels and 
short stories in search of one worth making into a picture. 
For this shortage the screen itself is in large measure re- 
sponsible. Too many authors, of talents both rising and 
matured, are delegated by the studios to rewrite the works 
of other men and are thus kept from writing on their own 
account. Hollywood would do well to confine the purely 
technical business of screen adaptation to writers who are 
adaptors and technicians by temperament and to leave 
every man capable of original creation free to work on 
that. The enormous number of pictures made every year 
has driven the studios back to revivals of former successes 
and to refuge in the classics. Neither revivals nor classics 
will fill the gap forever and the need for original screen 
plays is already pressing. 

A considerable amount of original screen material is con- 
stantly in course of concoction. This may be an unkind, 
but is not, I think, an unfair way of stating the case. The 
original screen play presents a knotty problem to both 
studio executive and film distributor. A successful stage 
play or a best-seller novel is each a known quantity and 
bears a thoroughly advertised tide. The unknown work 
written directly for the screen is a mystery to the public 
except as a vehicle for a popular star. "I need a picture 
for March and Gaynor," says Mr. Selznick, and Director 
Wellman and Author Carson join with him to concoct an 
assembly of safe and sane formulae known as A Star is 
Born. The venture proves a profitable one, but is unlikely 
to crown with fresh laurels the brow of the producer of 



52 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

David Copperfield. The original screen play has not yet 
grown beyond the synthetic vehicular phase. Until it does 
so, we shall not have to take it more seriously than it de- 
serves, and that is a good deal less seriously than we take 
the adaptation of established novels and plays. 

But the day of important original screen plays is near, 
when our O'Neills and Kaufmans will be writing for the 
screen as independently as they now write for the stage 
and arranging for their productions, not out of deference 
to the higher weekly salary, but with the same greed for 
the best artistic conditions of cast and direction which they 
now impose upon the theater. This is inevitable because 
the best talents for producing, directing and acting have 
already been drawn to the screen and because the stage's 
bitter complaints against the screen will very presently be 
silenced in virtual extinction and the thing called drama, 
of which stage and screen are both passing manifestations, 
will continue indefinitely to entertain mankind. In the 
screen drama that is to come the director will continue 
his domination, at least until the screen has welded director 
and screen writer into a single individual. But the writer's 
side of this superman will still play second fiddle and 
screen drama will not be literature but something else, 
something new. It is always a sound idea in art, as in life, 
to welcome anything new when it is good, and motion 
pictures seem bent on growing better and better. 



IV 

THE VOICE BEHIND THE MEGAPHONE 



John Cromwell 



WHEN I first came to Hollywood from the theater, 
I was told upon my arrival, as a preliminary to my 
first assignment as a director, to look for a story. This was 
some eight or ten years ago when the talking picture was 
in its infancy and before so many fine minds had been 
attracted by the new medium. I set about looking for a 
story in the files of the studio story department (naturally 
I was asked to make my selection from the material on 
hand). For several weeks I read lengthily, if not too well. 
Finally I came across a story which appealed to me, and, 
anxious to get started, I hurried to the author to discuss 
with him certain changes which in my capacity as a di- 
rector I felt were necessary. He agreed with me on all of 
them. But when I asked him how soon he could make these 
changes, he looked at me in great surprise and said, "You 
don't want me to make them, do you?" "Why, who else 
but you?" I answered. "Well," he said, "we write a story 
out here and hand it in. If it's accepted, we're delighted. 
But we don't expect to hear any more about it until the 
preview and then if we have the good fortune to find one 
scene of our own that we recognize, we feel very flattered." 
I explained that in the theater it was considered a very poor 
breach of etiquette to consult another writer about changes 

53 



54 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

on a script, unless the original author had given up com- 
pletely. This screen writer looked at me in some astonish- 
ment and I have been told his encounter with me was his 
topic of conversation for some time following. 

At that time, it was believed impossible to obtain a suc- 
cessful screen story without employing a great many writers. 
In fact, their number measured its success. This belief prob- 
ably grew out of the demand for competent screen writers 
which far exceeded their supply. All this, as I have said, 
was some eight years ago, and since that time pictures and 
the making of pictures have come a long way. I have come 
also to certain very definite theories about the motion pic- 
ture and the varied processes it must undergo before it is 
given to me to translate into living situations and person- 
alities for the screen. I have come to believe that if studios 
would look at what the author has created as the thing 
worth producing, and would take the trouble to develop 
writers especially young writers to a point where their 
efforts are worthy of production, pictures would be much 
better for it. Not until a determined effort is made to 
develop writers who have something to say, and have 
learned to say it in the medium of the motion picture, will 
the motion picture as an industry really have some claim 
as a creative art. 

Once the story has been agreed upon, the producer, 
writer and myself enter into a general discussion as to its 
treatment. This will vary, of course, if the story is in the 
form of a novel, short story, an original story or a play. 
I believe there are very few plays in their original form 
which lend themselves to the motion picture, because the 
medium is so totally different. In most plays the story is 
static, and it needs a great deal of ingenuity to transfer it 
to the visual medium. A screen story must flow, it must 




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THE VOICE BEHIND THE MEGAPHONE 55 

tell its story through the eye and the emotions: a play, on 
the other hand, tells its story through the mind and the 
emotions. 

Having conferred thoroughly on the treatment, dramatic 
construction and character of the story with the director 
and producer, if the latter has anything to offer, the writer 
goes away to make a first draft. This is then submitted to 
the producer and myself and adjustments are made on this 
basis. In working out the treatment the author may have 
found flaws which were not apparent at first, such as in 
the logical development of the story. It has sometimes been 
necessary to change a 1 dramatic story into a comedy so that 
the writer could take more liberties with the plot line. 

In The Prisoner of Zenda, for example, we were con- 
fronted with an antiquated, nostalgic story. Our problem 
was either to tell it realistically as well as possible, to tell 
it with our tongue in our cheeks, or to endeavor to create 
a period in which our story would seem credible. The first 
two methods would obviously not stand up today. But, in 
the third, we were able to realize enough of our original 
intentions to make the result both interesting and exciting. 

When a director gets a story, he has a pattern which 
includes the original idea of the writer and his comment 
on the story. These are uniquely his; they should not be 
supplemented by any other writer who might blur the 
final conception of the story. The director adds only 
enough interpolations of his own to give the story the 
fluidity a screen story must have. It must then be conceived 
and formulated by the writer and director as a complete 
entity. How the director will interpret this is the next step 
in its proper place. His own individuality is apparent in 
the way he shoots and edits the picture, and the manner in 
which he builds up the story expresses his point of view. 



56 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

While the writer prepares the final shooting script, the 
director confers with the producer, art director and camera- 
man as a matter of course. The completed script contains 
a full description of the locale and atmosphere of the scenes, 
explicit camera angles and effects, detailed descriptions of 
the characters as well as the dialogue and sound effects. 
This is then sent to all departments so that each will be as 
familiar as possible with the director's requirements. These 
departments of the motion picture, in the main, are in safe 
hands. Most art directors and most cameramen have real 
understanding and feeling. The art director should be able 
to understand from reading the script just what is needed 
in his interpretation of the story in terms of the sets. He 
must be sure to cover it from every conceivable camera 
angle. For example, in designing a large balkoom set, he 
must have enough variety of angles to cover the length of 
the scene when the cameras are placed in various positions. 

The interpretation of the cameraman is also brought to 
bear on the script. Usually we discuss our viewpoints in a 
fairly exhaustive conference. The cameraman often makes 
valuable suggestions which may necessitate changes in the 
script. I have already laid out the general pattern of the 
camera angles or shots in my mind. But the greatest danger 
to avoid is any set or predetermined ideas about camera 
angles which are not amenable to suggestions from the 
author, the art director or the cameraman, or, later, to cir- 
cumstances on the set. Camera angles should never be com- 
pletely fixed in the script. Very often they are changed 
to facilitate a more dramatic emphasis in a scene or a more 
interesting way of telling the story. 

On the premise that a director to be a director should be 
able to determine what it would cost to shoot successfully 
the story agreed upon, he should be allowed, and invariably 



THE VOICE BEHIND THE MEGAPHONE 57 

is, to determine how the money should be spent. Of course 
the production manager supervises the various details of 
the budget, which include the estimates of all departments 
involved in the production. But this budget must always 
have enough latitude so that the director can completely 
effect his visualization in terms of the finished film. 

As the pre-shooting preparation proceeds further, the 
director is confronted with innumerable problems which 
must be solved before the production gets under way. In 
this he is given invaluable aid by the assistant director who 
has charge of all routine matters connected with the pro- 
duction and who has mapped out the script into the various 
shooting days, so that it may be finished with the maximum 
efficiency. Now every department clamors for his attention 
with a hundred and one details. 

First there is the casting problem to settle. His star or 
stars have already been chosen by the producer. He must 
accept or reject the casting director's final choice of players. 
He must look at the tests made under his supervision of 
these players or at their work in previous films. With the 
casting settled, he must confer with the wardrobe depart- 
ment on costumes for the principal players and later make 
tests of them in their wardrobe and make-up to see that 
they are in character. He must make a final inspection tour 
with the art director to see that the sets are properly built 
and dressed or decorated. He must pass on all properties to 
be used. He must confer with the musical director as to 
how much and what type of background music is required. 
He must confer with the location manager on a suitable 
site, if the picture is to be shot on location. He must confer 
with the art department together with the special effects 
department on any miniature sets which must be built, and 
with the special effects and camera department on process 



58 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

or transparency shots, which generally form a part of every 
feature production. And he must confer at frequent inter- 
vals with the producer on the progress in the preparatory 
stages of the production. 

I like to rehearse the entire script with the players at least 
two weeks before I start shooting. The value of rehearsals 
is twofold: they enable the director to get a view of the 
whole story and they permit the actor a complete concep- 
tion of his part, so that if we shoot according to schedule, 
starting with the middle of the story, jump back to the 
beginning, ahead to the climax and then back to the second 
third, the actor will have the complete conception of his 
part so thoroughly in mind that his acting out of continuity 
will not greatly disturb him. 

The greatest factor against proper rehearsals is the fact 
that very few stories permit them because of economic rea- 
sons. Of course, I cannot blame a producer who has paid a 
large sum of money to an actor in an important part for 
concentrating on that part. If it is spread out over the 
script, the producer naturally will try to concentrate it 
into one week's work instead of three or four, by adjust- 
ing the shooting schedule. But it has always been my con- 
tention that I could find economies in the usual picture 
which would make up for the expense of carrying impor- 
tant actors from the date of their first rehearsal to the first 
day of shooting, and this certainly curtails the actual shoot- 
ing time. 

There are two schools of directing. In the first, the 
director is and insists on being all-powerful, so that any 
creative thought on the part of the actor is apt to infringe 
on his ideas. What he most desires is to manipulate facile 
and clever automatons which are nevertheless possessed of 
great screen personality. In the second school, the director 



THE VOICE BEHIND THE MEGAPHONE 59 

wants actors who are really creative, so that he can mold 
these various creations into a whole which fits in with his 
idea of the story. I liken a director of a picture or a play 
to the director of a symphony orchestra in which his job 
is merely his interpretation of the author's idea through 
which he makes his personal comment on the story. This 
presupposes that each actor with whom he works is a cre- 
ative artist in his own right and that the director's job is 
merely to guide and fuse these individual creative inter- 
pretations into a harmonious and expressive whole. 

The old theory about acting in pictures seemed to be 
based on the common belief that the screen required no 
acting in the proper sense of the word. Actors were little 
more than puppets with a talent for mimicry or an abun- 
dant supply of facile tricks, so that when they came on the 
set, bolstered up by personality, their stock question would 
always be: "What do I do in this scene?" As director, I 
deplore the lack of initiative and imagination in the great 
majority of screen actors. I would go so far as to say that 
I could count on two hands the actors in Hollywood who 
are truly creative. The majority have not the slightest con- 
ception of what the word creative means. This lack, and 
the inability of the actors to realize it, may be due to the 
essential difficulty of screen acting. Few actors are con- 
scious of the fact that their whole conception of a part 
must be completed before they start on a picture. In the 
theater, that conception is a matter of growth through from 
three to eight weeks of rehearsals and trial. In pictures, all 
this must be accomplished before shooting begins. Nor 
have screen actors learned to consult their directors ex- 
haustively in this process. To conceive one's role com- 
pletely beforehand requires great personal integrity of an 
actor, because he must accomplish this in spite of the many 



60 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

and persistent obstacles of studio routine. I am frequently 
amazed at actors of great integrity and purpose coming 
from the theater to do pictures and supinely yielding to 
that routine. 

When the director starts shooting, he has the story so 
completely in mind that he knows exactly what he wants. 
The old style of shooting a scene was to take an establish- 
ing long shot, play the scene through with a medium shot, 
and then use a close shot for the characters. This was called 
"being thoroughly protected." I think that a director 
should save all that time and energy by learning the art of 
film-stoiy-telling, and cut his picture as he shoots. Funda- 
mentally he has a choice of two kinds of technique: start- 
ing on a fairly close shot of some action that is either 
revelation of the characters or story, then proceeding back 
to a revelation of time and place, or establishing the locale 
first and then progressing up to the characters. Using the 
first method, the picture might open on a close shot of a 
newspaper lying on the pavement with the camera tilting 
up to the little boy who is standing over the newspaper 
reading it, and from there moving horizontally or panning 
over to a man standing on the street and watching the little 
boy, when the story begins. Using the second method, you 
might open on a long shot of the street, then move the 
camera towards the little boy in what is known as a truck- 
ing shot, and finally pan over to a shot of the man as the 
story begins. 

The most effective way of telling a story on the screen 
is to use the camera as the story-teller, selecting and con- 
centrating upon objects which are the center of dramatic 
interest. The camera may be used objectively or sub- 
jectively: as an onlooker or as the eye of one or more of 
the characters in the story. It is enabled to do this because 



THE VOICE BEHIND THE MEGAPHONE 6l 

of its mobility: it can see objects from a distance or it can 
magnify them; it can move freely or remain fixed; it can 
turn or tilt, swing, peer through keyholes, swoop or crawl. 
Sometimes the camera uses objects as a means of creating 
suspense. In The Prisoner of Zenda we had a scene in the 
king's hunting lodge on the morning after a hard night of 
drinking. Ronald Colman as Rudolf Rassendyll is still 
asleep, and extraordinary means are necessary to awaken 
him. Here we used a silver water pitcher to create suspense 
and to introduce the characters in the scene. We began 
with an extreme close shot of the pitcher filled with ice- 
water and carried on a tray by Joseph, the servant. As he 
enters the main room, the camera travels ten or fifteen feet 
seeing only the water pitcher. Then the camera stops and 
we see a hand grasp the handle of the pitcher, draw it back 
and throw its contents. The camera now draws back to 
show that the water hits Ronald Colman full in the face, 
as he is sleeping in a chair. This shot is held until he reacts 
to the sudden shock of the water, then cuts to the man who 
threw it. 

Each shot here was a separate set-up or camera position 
and each had to be made individually. Here no additional 
protection shots were necessary; we used our judgment in 
the amount of footage. Before we started shooting, I re- 
hearsed part of the scene for the action, then once for the 
cameras and lighting and once for the sound department, 
which checks the level and position of the actors' voices. 
Generally not over three takes or separate film records are 
made of each set-up. We may do a scene of half a minute 
or of four minutes, but we always rehearse it thoroughly 
first before taking it. The number of set-ups which can be 
made each day depends on the amount of change of the 
position and lighting. A good cameraman should be able 



6^ WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

to make one set-up in about forty minutes, or at least eight 
set-ups a day. 

During production, the script girl is of indispensable help 
in taking detailed notes of everything connected with the 
shooting: all business, all placements of the actors, use of 
props, the footage, angle and lens used for each scene. 
Without these notes the director's task would be infinitely 
more involved. 

The shooting schedule varies from forty days to sixty or 
seventy. Every evening the director looks at the rushes of 
the previous day's work, selecting the best takes and dis- 
cussing with the editor the feeling and tempo he wants for 
the entire film. When the picture is finally cut, and scored 
by the musical director, it is then ready for preview. The 
reactions of an audience are his best guide for the necessary 
changes; these are made until he feels the film is right. 
When the negative is cut to correspond with this positive, 
the picture is ready for the screens of the nation. 

The advantages of the screen director are obvious: he 
has more money at his disposal than the stage director; he 
has unlimited technical facilities at his command. But he 
does not have the human emotional reactions of direct con- 
tact with his audience; instead, he must be his own audi- 
ence. Perhaps his greatest handicap is the lack of under- 
standing of his supervisors. In most cases, he should be 
allowed the final say on the production he is directing. 
Nor should he be forced to do stories in which he does not 
believe. He should be allowed to do stories in which he 
does believe, even if they involve censorship. Next to super- 
vision, censorship is the most difficult handicap to overcome 
and he is always obliged to compromise. The story musi 
either be abandoned or the director must change the stor) 
to such an extent that its entire meaning is lost. 



THE VOICE BEHIND THE MEGAPHONE 63 

It is desirable for a director to have a limit to the number 
of pictures he directs each year. This should not exceed 
three. There is not sufficient time to make more because 
one production alone takes from twelve to twenty weeks, 
of which eight weeks are spent in the pre-shooting prepara- 
tion. And he must have time to see the production through 
to its completion. 

As the problem of color is entering more and more into 
the making of pictures, I would like to include mention of 
it here. When the mechanics of color will have been per- 
fected, there will be no more difficulties in the production 
of color pictures than there are now in black and white. 
I believe that color should be the perfect stage setting for 
the story, as are some of the stage designs of Robert Ed- 
mund Jones, which so caught the mood of the play that 
they completely satisfied the eye and the author's concep- 
tion of the setting without even slightly intruding them- 
selves on the audience. When color reaches the point where 
audiences take it for granted and are not startled into a lack 
of attention of the story itself, then it will be an added 
means of telling the story as dramatically as possible. 

All through the production the director must co-ordinate 
the work of the technical departments, which check the 
numerous processes, and the hundreds of indispensable 
workers engaged in the making of a motion picture to the 
end that a story may be translated from paper into film. 
If, in spite of the many minds contributing to its shaping, 
the visualization of the director is achieved, then the co- 
ordination has been successful and the dominance of one 
mind is apparent. And if the technical and mechanical fac- 
tors involved are subservient to the director's conception, 
there results an individual expression in terms of a motion 
picture. 



V 

THE PRODUCTION TAKES SHAPE 

Clem Beauchamp 



BEFORE the duties of the production office can be dis- 
cussed, it is well to remember that so far this book has 
spoken of production plans, selection of stories and direc- 
tors, and the respective contributions of each towards the 
finished product. When the time comes for the plans to be 
carried out, and the shooting script the final transforma- 
tion of a story into a screen play has been approved, the 
director is ready to start production. Men and material are 
now needed to translate the plans into reality; it is here 
that the production office enters. The tears that are shed 
during a dramatic scene, the pies that fly through the air 
in a slapstick comedy, the exclamation mark at the end of a 
sentence in the script, must be computed, made or bought; 
rain, snow, sunshine and storm must all be figured in dol- 
lars and cents. In short all material, all man power, and 
all the space needed for a motion pjcflire^becoine die- 
problems of the production office, 

Of course, there are methods to cope with this enormous 
task, departments to take care of the details, liaison men to 
watch over the progress of production and thousands of ex- 
perts, artisans, mechanics, buyers and office workers to 
start the wheels of production going. Their efforts are co- 
ordinated in transforming the thought of the producer, the 

64 



THE PRODUCTION TAKES SHAPE 65 

story of the author, the screen play of the scenarist and 
the guidance of the director into a finished motion pic- 
ture. 

When the year's production schedule has been an- 
nounced, the production office then allots a certain number 
of pictures to be made each month, so that they can meet 
release dates. He thus avoids having too many pictures in 
production at the same time, creating a lack of stage space 
and holding up production. For instance, if the studio has 
sixteen stages, it would be advisable not to have more than 
ten pictures shooting at once, since one picture may have 
twenty-five or thirty sets, and these would each occupy 
about four stages. 

As the scripts are turned in to the production manager, 
he assigns a unit manager and an assistant director to each 
production. He must be careful to have the pictures started 
on time to meet release dates. He must allow sufficient time 
for the shooting of the picture, and the six to eight weeks 
in the cutting and dubbing rooms, before it is ready to 
be previewed and shipped to the distributors. 

First, when the production manager reads the script, he 
must see whether any superfluous sets may be eliminated, 
thereby holding down the cost of production. This will 
also aif ect set dressing, extra talent and electrical equip- 
ment. Elimination of sets may necessitate changes in the 
story, which must be discussed with the producer and di- 
rector. 

The next step is the breaking down of the script by the 
unit manager and assistant director. This includes a short 
synopsis of each scene, set and sequence, the cast which 
works in each, the bit players and the extra talent, their 
wardrobe and the amount of time allotted for each set or 
location. When the breakdown is finished, it is assembled, 



66 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

and from this the shooting schedule is made. This schedule 
shows the amount of time needed in each set or location for 
the complete picture. It also includes the number of days 
or weeks that each character actually works, the number 
of days he is idle and the total number of days needed for 
the completion of his part. 

The shooting schedule is sent to the various departments: 
camera, wardrobe (men's and women's), property, casting, 
art, make-up, electricity, sound, trick camera and special 
effects. Each department, in turn, submits its respective 
budget to the production manager. 

Let us make the rounds of the various departments and 
see how they solve their manifold tasks: 

ELECTRIC: The head of the electrical department re- 
ceives a shooting schedule and then contacts the production 
department. Together they discuss the size of the sets and 
the amount of time to be allotted to each. In this way the 
electrical department can estimate the number of electri- 
cians, lights and the amount of electricity that will be nec- 
essary. Allowance must also be made in the budget for 
rental of equipment, replacing of broken light globes, and 
purchase of carbons for hard and sun arcs. 

ART: The art department must estimate the cost of the 
sets through the construction department, which includes 
paint, plaster, iron works, practical plumbing, the striking 
of old sets, and preparing the stages and sets for rain scenes. 
If the sets are to be on location, the same thing applies, 
except that the cost of transportation, trucking and haul- 
ing must also be figured. The cameraman, director and head 
painter are called to the art department to discuss the paint 
and wallpaper to be used on the various sets. They examine 
samples of paper for color, texture, design, period and 
photographic qualities. If the picture is modern, the very 



THE PRODUCTION TAKES SHAPE 6j 

latest style of wallpaper, mural decorations and the newest 
floor and woodwork finishes are used. The head painter 
must bear in mind at all times that paints, lacquers and 
varnishes must be of the quick drying type, so that not 
only can all the painters work on the set at the same time, 
but also the carpenters, electricians and property men. The 
head painter is constantly on the lookout for new color 
schemes, designs and new types of paint that dry almost 
instantly, and at the same time give a hard, durable finish. 

RESEARCH: Every major studio has a research department 
of its own, which supplies it with the special data and pic- 
tures of the country and period in which the story is laid. 
If the production involves a large amount of research, a 
technician is assigned by the production manager. The tech- 
nician then contacts the art department, construction de- 
partment, wardrobe, property, make-up and hairdressers, 
and supplies them with the special information. 

It is important to get good technicians, and they must be 
carefully selected. For instance, if a picture is laid in India, 
it is advisable to get a native of India or at least someone 
who has lived there many years, and is thoroughly familiar 
with the native language and customs. The technician also 
functions as interpreter on the production when real na- 
tives are employed. If the picture concerns the army, a 
retired army officer is usually contracted to check on the 
uniforms, manual of arms, rifles and revolvers. No pain or 
expense is spared to make the picture as accurate as pos- 
sible. Collections of photographs are made from museums, 
libraries and files from all over the world. 

WARDROBE: For the wardrobe department to estimate its 
budget, allowance must be made for the clothing of the 
stars and feature players. This, as a rule, is designed by the 
sketch artists, under the supervision of the head designer. 



68 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

The sketches must be O.K/d by the producer, director 
and stars, before the costumes are begun. The amount of 
material to be used, the cost per yard, salaries of dress- 
makers, pleaters, embroiderers, bead workers and fitters 
must be included, as well as those of the designers. 

If the picture requires period clothing, designs must be 
made of the costumes, types, color and amount of cloth 
to be used. 'If the correct color cannot be obtained for 
photographic effects, the material must be dyed and shrink- 
age allowed for. If uniforms of antiquated periods are 
needed, a design of the buttons must be sketched and dies 
made to stamp out the facsimile. Sketches of the correct cut 
of the uniforms, insignia, hats, caps, boots and spurs must 
now be made. If these costumes are needed in great quan- 
tities, it is often cheaper to contract with outside wholesale 
tailoring establishments to provide them. All these items 
are figured in the compilation of the wardrobe budget. 

FILM: The average major studio allots approximately 
one hundred thousand feet of negative, sixty thousand 
feet of positive, and a like amount of sound track for each 
picture, the cost of which is figured in the budget. This 
footage has to be gauged by the type and length of pic- 
ture and the individual director, as some directors use more 
footage than others. If it is a musical picture, film for scor- 
ing and dubbing must be allowed for over and above the 
original film allowance. 

STILLS: A still man must be assigned to every production 
and his salary and the cost of making the stills is chargec 
to the production. It is important that he be fast and ef- 
ficient, so that he can obtain production stills between cam 
era set-ups. In this way he does not hold up the company 
and at the same time makes the required number and va 
riety of stills each day. 




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THE PRODUCTION TAKES SHAPE 69 

STAND-INS: Allowance must be made in the budget for 
stand-ins for the stars. These are people who are picked 
for their physical resemblance to the stars, having similar 
hair, eyes, height and general physical appearance. They 
always wear the same clothes and the same color make-up 
as the stars when working in a picture, so that there will 
be no difference in the lighting. The stars are usually con- 
tacted first, because as a rule they have their regular stand- 
ins who work for them all the time. As there is a set sal- 
ary for stand-ins, the stars sometimes pay them personally 
every week, in addition to what they earn while working 
for the studio. Then the stand-in also acts as secretary, 
maid or valet, thus making a better and regular salary. 

EXTRA TALENT AND BITS: The budget for extra talent 
and bit players is made under the supervision of the pro- 
duction manager, either by the assistant director or the 
unit manager. People who speak a few lines, or do special 
acts, come under the heading of bit players, and receive 
more money than the extra players. Allowance must be 
made in the budget for all scenes in which both extras 
and bit players appear. For instance, if the script calls for 
a large cafe sequence, the unit art director will know 
how many tables and booths are needed, and the required 
number of extras can be figured from this. Allowance must 
also be made for waiters, busboys, hat-check girls and 
doormen. If there is a possibility that these people will 
work overtime, this must also be computed in the budget. 
If special racial types are used, interviews are arranged 
through the casting office. For example, if one hundred 
people are needed, about one hundred and seventy-five 
will be called, so that the best may be selected by the di- 
rector, assistant director and sometimes the unit manager. 

PROPERTY: The property budget is submitted by the 



70 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

head of the property department and includes the salaries 
of the property men, set dressers and set watchmen. In- 
cluded in this budget are all rented props such as antiques, 
jewelry, animals and automobiles, and whatever special 
props must be made or purchased, such as flowers and food. 
There are several outside property houses which rent to 
studios on a daily or weekly basis. 

The head of the property department must constantly 
check his schedule so that he will return the rented props 
as soon as the company is through with them. He does this 
by checking with the production manager to get a clear- 
ance on the props involved. But before giving the clear- 
ance, the production manager must get what is called a 
negative O.K., which means that the producer and direc- 
tor have passed on the scenes in which the props appear. 

DRAPERY: The drapery department has charge of all 
hangings, curtains, bedspreads, tapestries and upholstering. 
The head of the department bases his budget on the amount 
and cost of the above items used in the production. 

SOUND: Each production is assigned a head recorder, 
assistant recorder, boom man and grip or carpenter. If 
there is a location in the picture, a maintenance man is also 
included in the budget. He acts as mechanic and generator 
operator or general utility man. Extra grips must also be 
included for locations, to move equipment sufficiently fast 
so as not to delay production. The salaries of these people 
are included in the sound department budget. 

SCRIPT CLERKS: A script clerk must be included in the 
budget. Her duties are to time scenes, match action, cloth- 
ing and furniture, watch and check dialogue, and type 
notes for each scene for the editor of the picture. 

DIALOGUE DIRECTORS: Some directors use dialogue direc- 
tors and, if so, their salaries are figured in the budget. 



THE PRODUCTION TAKES SHAPE Jl 

Their work is to rehearse the cast in their lines before 
the scene is shot. 

Music: If the picture to be made is a musical, the musi- 
cal director is notified and the type of music discussed. 
If popular music is to be used, song writers must be con- 
tacted far in advance so that they will have time to write 
songs to fit the picture. This applies to background music 
also, which is the musical score used behind the dialogue. 
All major studios have arrangers and well-known composers 
under contract. 

The production manager calls a meeting between the 
director, composers and head of the music department. 
They decide on the type of music, the length of each 
number and its cost. Most major studios pre-score or re- 
cord their music before the production starts. This is done 
on a scoring stage where all music is recorded. The stage 
is so constructed that the acoustics are correct and a nearly 
perfect sound track may be made. This system of pre- 
scoring is also used when certain actors and actresses do 
not sing or play. Then, good singers are hired and their 
voices dubbed in. The studios have found that this method 
saves considerable time and money. Besides, an actor can 
perform much better when he is not actually singing a 
scene, but merely mouthing the words to the song, or going 
through the motions of playing, as he hears it come over 
the playback, which is the playing on the set of the record- 
ing made on the film or disc. 

TRANSPORTATION: Every major studio owns automobiles, 
trucks, motorcycles, trailers and buses to be used for trans- 
porting people and equipment to and from locations. The 
unit manager, in making out his budget, must charge the 
picture with hourly and daily rates, such as thirty dollars 
a day for each truck and driver, or twenty-five dollars for 



72 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

a seven-passenger car and driver. When outside transporta- 
tion is used, the unit manager must consider whether it 
would be more economical to hire the trucks by the hour 
or by the mile. If the location is quite a distance from the 
studio, it is cheaper to keep the trucks or cars on location 
than to dismiss them and bring them back at the end of 
the day's work. All outside transportation must be prop- 
erly licensed to operate under the State Motor Vehicle 
laws. This is particularly important in hauling people back 
and forth as, of course, the company is liable in case of 
accident. 

LOCATIONS: Whenever location work is necessary, calls 
are put in as "weather permitting." Sometimes, during the 
winter months, a picture will be forced back into the 
studio by bad weather so frequently that all interiors have 
been completed. It is then up to the production manager 
to determine whether or not the company should be sent 
out on location, even if the weather is threatening. He 
must take into account the cost of transportation, cast 
salaries, extra talent, lunches and the rental of locations. 
For example, during the completion of The Lives of a 
Bengal Lancer the company had a large location approxi- 
mately fifty miles from the studio. They were using be- 
tween two and three hundred extra people a day and about 
a hundred and fifty horses, and these had to be transported 
back and forth each day. In order not to be forced back 
by bad weather while paying for the above, the produc- 
tion manager chartered an airplane, which left the airport 
every morning at four and flew over the location to de- 
termine the condition of fog, clouds and wind. The pilot 
was accompanied by the assistant director, and if both 
thought it inadvisable to shoot that day, they called the 
production manager and let him know. Their report was 



THE PRODUCTION TAKES SHAPE 73 

checked against the local weather report, to be sure they 
were making the right move. For this picture, the system 
was very successful. 

On some pictures a weather expert is hired from a tech- 
nical school and sent on location a week ahead of the com- 
pany. He sends in a daily report for the first three days, 
and an hourly report for the remainder of the week, 
thereby keeping the production office in constant touch 
with die weather conditions. This was done in The Lives 
of a Bengal Lancer to avoid a great amount of expense. 
The production office now always contacts the local air- 
port each evening to get a detailed account of weather con- 
ditions for the following day. 

The movie industry first settled in southern California 
because of the good weather and abundant types of loca- 
tions. Within the radius of a hundred miles of Holly- 
wood, deserts, ocean, lakes, rivers, forests, ranches, moun- 
tains and homes of any desired type may be found. Most 
large estates in southern Calif ornia have been photographed 
and are on file in the location department. 

Most major studios have a studio ranch. This is located 
within an hour's travel of the studio and consists of West- 
ern streets, New York streets, Chinese streets, South Sea 
Island villages, army barracks, railway stations, tanks for 
water scenes, and almost everything that cannot be built 
on the stages on the lot. 

If a production has an out-of-town location, the unit 
manager, the location manager and the director go through 
the files and photographs in the location office to find a 
suitable site for the production. If none is found, they must 
go in search of one. If, for instance, the proper location 
is found in the northern part of the state, the unit mana- 



74 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

ger must arrange for hotel and meals, as well as transporta- 
tion. 

If the location is too far from a city, a camp must be 
erected. There are several companies which cater to mo- 
tion-picture locations. They furnish tents, cook-houses 
and all necessary equipment to take care of the com- 
pany. If any night scenes are to be taken on location, 
generating plants must be provided to supply the elec- 
tricity. The unit manager must be certain that the camp is 
well supplied with food, water and good sanitation. The 
camp is usually situated as near trees and level ground as 
possible, and is built on the order of an army camp with 
company streets. 

Lights must be out at eleven o'clock, so that everyone 
will have a good night's rest, as the company works from 
sunup to sunset every day, including Sunday. First aid is 
furnished for the company's safety and welfare workers 
for children, if the company is on extended location. If 
animals are used, veterinarians must be supplied and water 
and feed located as conveniently as possible. Often the 
unit manager will be able to rent livestock from the sur- 
rounding ranchers and not have to transport them from 
the studio. 

Projection machines and screens are set up on location, 
so that the director can see the rushes or dailies. If a town 
is near by, the unit manager may arrange to use one of the 
movie theaters after the evening show. The film shot each 
day is carefully packed and shipped to the studio labora- 
tory. The reports of the assistant cameraman and the as- 
sistant director are mailed to the studio production office 
every day, so that the production manager will know how 
the company is progressing. The unit manager also tele- 
phones die production manager three or four times a week 



THE PRODUCTION TAKES SHAPE 75 

to report progress. Quite often, in case of a mechanical 
breakdown of the camera or sound equipment, replace- 
ments must be sent to the location by air, train or truck. 

Some studios have short-wave sets, so they can talk di- 
rectly from location to the studio. For instance, during 
the preparation of the script of The Lady Consents, star- 
ring Ann Harding and Herbert Marshall, Miss Harding 
was in Honolulu on her vacation. It was necessary for the 
production office to talk to Miss Harding about story 
changes and wardrobe. To do this, Roy Hunt, the camera- 
man assigned to the picture, who is a short-wave enthusiast, 
contacted Miss Harding in Honolulu via the radio with 
very satisfactory results. 

WATER SCENES: If the script calls for a storm at sea, 
people being washed overboard and parts of the ship being 
washed away by waves and wind, the desired parts of the 
boat are built in the tank at the studio ranch. Here over- 
head tanks are so situated that thousands of gallons of water 
can be released quickly or slowly by levers and reloaded 
in a few minutes by large pumps. These tanks are also 
equipped with diving bells for under-water work. 

SPECIAL EFFECTS: Every major studio has a department 
which handles all the rain, fire, fog, explosion, snow, hail 
and similar special effects. For example, in the picture Win- 
terset, a large area had to be covered by rain and fog. 
The rain had to start with a slow drizzle and turn into a 
downpour. This was achieved by overhead pipes that had 
a series of adjustable nozzles. The pipes, in turn, were 
connected with fire hoses to supply the amount of water 
needed. To keep the rain from drowning out the voices of 
the actors as it hit the hard pavement, the special effects 
department experimented with a wire mesh which was sus- 
pended a few inches from the ground, and could not be 



76 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

seen by the camera. The raindrops hit this wire mesh and 
deadened the sound of the falling water. The fog was sup- 
plied by a combination of dry ice and mineral oil which 
was blown through a painter's air gun and came out as a 
thick fog. This was done before each scene began. The oil 
was heavy enough to hold the vapor and give the desired 
effect. 

To protect the actors from this continual downpour in 
which they had to work for about three weeks, rubber 
suits were made to fit under their clothes. Each actor had 
four or five identical costumes so that he did not have 
to wear wet clothes for a very long time. This, of course, 
was a protection against sickness. 

PROCESS: If process (also known as transparency and 
rear projection) shots are used, suitable backgrounds must 
be found in the film libraries, or a cameraman must be sent 
to the actual location to photograph the desired scenes. 
For instance, in Winterset the script called for two char- 
acters to walk across Brooklyn Bridge, and for one of the 
characters to leave the gates of Sing Sing to be joined 
by another character in a walking shot. To get these back- 
grounds, a cameraman was sent to Nev^ York with exact 
duplicates of the wardrobe the characters were to wear. 
He hired two doubles of the same size to walk in the long 
shots. The film was then shipped airmail to the studio 
laboratory in Hollywood, quickly developed and sent to 
the editing department, so that the producer, director and 
editor could see it and determine if the shots were satis- 
factory. 

The film was then turned over to the process department 
and prepared for rear projection. This is done by project- 
ing the background from the rear on to a transparent 
screen. The real actors are then photographed in front of 



THE PRODUCTION TAKES SHAPE 77 

the screen. This gives the illusion that the characters were 
actually walking out of Sing Sing or crossing Brooklyn 
Bridge. When the characters walk in this type of scene, 
a treadmill is used, so that the actors appear to have the 
background move with them. 

When all departments have turned in their budgets, they 
are assembled by the production manager, who now in- 
cludes the studio overhead expense which sometimes runs 
as high as 40 per cent of the grand total He then calls a 
general budget meeting of all the department heads, the 
director and producer, to determine how many days will 
be needed for shooting the picture and how much money 
can be appropriated. A final shooting schedule is sent to 
the various departments, while the production manager 
contacts the director in regard to cast, personnel, wardrobe 
and sets. The final shooting schedule includes cover sets, 
or scenes to be shot in case of cancellation of a call if 
the production is working on location, and is made up so 
that every actor has a twelve-hour rest between calls and 
thirty-six hours over the weekends. If children are used, 
they may only work from 9 A.M. to 6 PJM. daily, no Sun- 
days, and they must have three hours of school during 
the day. Young babies may be photographed only a few 
minutes at a time, and nurses and school teachers are sup- 
plied by the studio. In the case of a nursing child, the 
mother is, of course, with the baby at all times; the studio 
furnishes a dressing-room for the mother and baby's com- 

fort - j u A 

Then, while the various departments prepare and sched- 
ule, the production office through its contact man, the unit 
manager, stands by the director and waits for the signal 



78 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

to start. Once that is given, the huge apparatus of the studio 
is set in motion and actual production begins. From the mo- 
ment of the start until the picture is ready to be turned 
over to the distributing agencies, the task of the produc- 
tion manager is to see that all that has been planned, esti- 
mated and scheduled is carried out promptly, efficiently, 
and with the minimum of errors. 

There is no other industry in the world in which the 
old adage "time is money" is so applicable as in the mak- 
ing of motion pictures. The slightest delay may cost thou- 
sands of dollars; a single misplaced prop may bring hun- 
dreds of people to a standstill. The motto of the production 
department is: "We can't photograph alibis." No depart- 
ment head would dream of reporting to the production 
office that he cannot fulfill an assignment or that something 
urgently needed is impossible to procure. No matter what 
the explanation may be, it is never acceptable. 

If a property man has mislaid an important prop through 
carelessness or accident, and he can find none to duplicate 
it, another must be made. This takes time, and meanwhile 
it may be necessary for the company to move to another 
set, call different actors and even extend the rental of 
equipment and other props. 

Bad weather, sickness or injuries to actors, or unavoid- 
able accidents must never delay the company and hold up 
production. The unit would then be immediately trans- 
ferred to another set where the injured or sick actor would 
not be required. Bad weather sends the company back to 
the studio where a set is prepared to resume the shooting 
of another sequence of the picture. And if, in spite of vigi- 
lance and forethought, mishaps occur which delay the unit, 
the production manager must see to it that the time lost 
is gradually absorbed, the lost money is compensated and 



THE PRODUCTION TAKES SHAPE 79 

the schedule of the unit is brought back as close to the 
original estimate as possible. 

Some of these delays can be avoided if the production 
manager keeps a careful watch over the daily schedule of 
each picture. If, for example, a company is shooting on a 
set for which six days have been allowed, the director can 
ascertain by the second or third day whether there is a 
possible chance of running overtime. If this is the case, 
it would be advisable to work a few hours every night to 
make up the loss, or to make whatever changes are neces- 
sary by shortening the number of scenes on the set. If it 
is the crew who have held up the production, they are re- 
placed. This applies to the director also. On the other 
hand, if a picture has been in production for three weeks 
and is four to five days behind schedule, the producer 
may decide that he will have a better picture than he ex- 
pected and will quite often have more money appropriated 
to the budget, and make no changes in the story, crew 
or director. 

The production manager must make sure that actors and 
actresses under contract to the studio are finished on the 
date scheduled, as they may be working in two or three 
other pictures at the same time. Any delay here may seri- 
ously hold up the production of other pictures. 

Day and night, week after week, year in and year out, 
the production manager has three to ten productions run- 
ning simultaneously. Through his office millions of dollars 
flow, thousands of people are employed and their activities 
supervised, immense amounts of material are bought and 
used. All manner of errors and accidents must be elimi- 
nated, adjusted and tracked down, all this so that our in- 
dustry may turn out better pictures at greater economy 
and, finally, that our craft may achieve greater perfection 
for the enjoyment of millions of people the world over. 



VI 

DESIGNING THE SETS 

Hans Dreier 



THE WORK of the art director starts with the synop- 
sis or outline of the screen play, which gives him a 
general idea of the locale, atmosphere and scope of the pic- 
ture. His first conference with the producer is based on the 
ideas he has formulated after reading the synopsis. At this 
time also, he submits a rough estimate of the necessary sets, 
their cost and the stage space required. Later, when the 
first draft of the shooting script appears on his desk, he 
elaborates on his earlier ideas and makes a more detailed 
plan of the sets. 

He must consider a number of factors in making this 
plan: the sets must be designed to enhance the mood of the 
story, to encompass all the action required by the script, 
and to be absolutely accurate in details of period and 
country. In regard to the latter, it makes little difference 
whether the story calls for sets representing the habitat of 
Neanderthal man or the bedroom of Napoleon at St. 
Helena or the modern penthouse of a wealthy bachelor. 
Each must be correct. Audiences today are becoming more 
and more discerning. Much money and labor go into secur- 
ing the necessary research from which the art director 
fashions his plans. Museums, private libraries and university 
research departments are utilized in the pressing search for 

80 



DESIGNING THE SETS 8l 

correct answers. Of course, all major studios have their 
own research departments, and ordinarily they are able to 
supply pictures and descriptions of historical periods and 
styles sufficient for the majority of films. But occasionally 
problems arise in a story which cannot be settled by the 
research department. In this case the art department sends 
photographers to museums and libraries to photograph 
pages of rare manuscripts dealing with the period in ques- 
tion. 

Another important consideration in planning the sets is 
the problem of adequate lighting. Some sets require bril- 
liant and glittering lights, while others require subdued 
lights, depending on the action and mood of the story. For 
brilliant fighting the art director must employ schemes of 
material and color which will create a mood of brilliance. 
Here the construction of the walls is also affected, because 
they will have to support many more lights than ordinarily. 
For a low-lighting scheme, the art director should plan a 
hazy and indistinct background, which will heighten the 
ominous or somber mood. 

At this stage the personnel of the art department comes 
into the proceedings. The department is headed by the 
supervising art director, who prepares the designs of the 
settings in the way previously described. In further dis- 
cussions with the director, the designs are completed up 
to the point where the assigning of a unit art director be- 
comes necessary. The unit art director, who is an artist 
of individual style and achievement, takes charge of the 
designs from now on. He also contributes his personal con- 
ception and creative ability to the production. His work 
is of great importance because he has to combine art with 
practical knowledge and executive ability. The major 
studios each have an average of ten unit art directors. 



82 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

Now the unit art director prepares a layout which in- 
cludes sketches of every set in die picture and elevation 
drawings drawn to scale. Sometimes these sketches are in- 
sufficient if the director has no architectural imagination 
and cannot visualize the finished set. Then watercolor 
sketches are made which will include the proper lighting 
of the set, so that the director and the producer will know 
how the sets will look when built. In complicated layouts, 
in which several rooms, streets and gardens are to be built 
as one unit, models of paper pasted on wood are made from 
the preliminary drawings. These little models serve several 
purposes. The director can plot his action and shots more 
correctly. The construction department will have an ac- 
curate idea what is required of die set, and the set dressing 
department will know more definitely the requirements 
for the furniture. 

Assisting the unit art directors in their work is a force 
of designers, draftsmen and artists, whose number varies 
with the amount of work to be done. Most art depart- 
ments keep the most valuable of these on a permanent 
basis. The designer's work is mainly to prepare the work- 
ing plans of the sets. To be successful in this vocation, he 
must fully understand the style and intentions of the art 
director and have creative ability of his own besides. Full- 
sized details and an estimate of die cost, given by the con- 
struction department, round up this phase of the work and 
the plans are ready for blueprinting. These blueprints are 
then sent to all departments. 

An important factor in planning the sets is the availa- 
bility of floor space on the various stages. Since the ad- 
vent of sound, two units can no longer work on the same 
stage. The space must now be plotted according to the 
shooting schedules of all pictures in production. As this 



DESIGNING THE SETS 83 

involves actors, directors, time and many other items, stage 
space is allotted by the production manager, who keeps 
in constant touch with the supervising art director, who, 
in turn, must plan his settings for all productions with the 
available floor space in mind. 

As the production of the picture proceeds, the unit art 
director discusses his plans with the supervising art direc- 
tor, who approves them and assumes the final responsibility 
for them to the production head. To prepare a set plan 
for final approval, the unit art director must consider a va- 
riety of angles. With the guidance of the final script, he 
carefully scrutinizes each set to determine how much of it 
must be constructed to cover the action of the scenes. 
For example, if the script calls for the "Interior of the 
Ritz Hotel Lobby/' when the action consists of a desk 
clerk answering a telephone call, only the information 
desk need be built. When the scene calls for a close-up of 
the clerk answering the telephone, only a small portion of 
the information desk need be built. This is such a simple 
case that there would be no need for discussion. A more in- 
volved example would be one in which the camera precedes 
an actor walking along, then swings away from him to 
point out a person in another part of the room. Such a 
set-up sometimes means the construction of large sets which 
are subsequently overlooked, because the camera is so 
close to the actor that everything else is out of focus. Such 
a scene is carefully discussed by the producer and director, 
and they will have to decide whether or not this particu- 
lar way of shooting the scene is so important for the tell- 
ing of the story that the set expenditure is of minor im- 
portance. In other cases the script might not call for a 
large set. But to carry the mood of the scene convincingly, 
the art director may feel that the opposite procedure is 



84 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

necessary here. He will then have to obtain the approval 
of an expenditure which was not originally anticipated. 

A thorough knowledge of all tricks which are made by 
the special-effects department is essential to the art di- 
rector. For, although the sets may look real to the eye in 
the finished picture, they are still part of the illusion created 
for the audience. Part of this illusion may be made by dis- 
tant backgrounds, which especially on interior sets are 
created by the art director with the help of the special 
effects department. Since the audience cannot discern any 
individual action in distant parts of a setting, the illusion 
of scope and depth can be created by reducing the scale of 
certain parts of the set to miniatures, placing these in back 
of the set (background miniatures), or in front of the cam- 
era (foreground miniatures) . The latter procedure is based 
on simple mathematical facts; it enables the art director 
to construct only the lower parts of the settings, in which 
the action takes place, and to carry the illusion of great 
distances above by means of construction on a reduced 
scale. 

Backings are also handled by the art department. If a 
scene is laid in an office building, say on the sixth floor, the 
backings of other office buildings seen through the win- 
dows are necessary. These are made from 9 x i i-inch pho- 
tographs and enlarged by process photography to the nec- 
essary perspective. If the script calls for a night scene, ap- 
ertures are cut in the windows, covered with tracing paper 
and lights placed behind them. If roof-tops are needed, 
small electric and neon signs are built in the proper propor- 
tion by the miniature department, under the supervision 
of the art department. 

The approved set layouts must now be translated into 
actual working plans, from which estimates are then made. 



DESIGNING THE SETS 85 

These must closely approximate the budget which the su- 
pervisor has made in his previous plans. This budget has 
been approved in a production meeting presided over by 
the producer, director and all department heads involved 
in the actual production. Then, when the new plans and 
estimates are completed, the building of the sets begins 
under the supervision of the unit art director. 

Now the set dressing department swings into action to 
provide suitable furnishings for the sets. This department 
functions under the supervision of the art director in 
charge of interior decoration. According to the sketches, 
the set dresser collects the furniture, drapes, rugs, pic- 
tures, lamps and whatever additional accessories he thinks 
are necessary. All major companies have a large stock of 
furniture of all periods and styles. But the variety of re- 
quirements is so great that no company can buy and keep 
all which is needed. The very foundation of the industry- 
novelty of entertainment acts against anything too per- 
manent. Characteristic pieces cannot be seen too often 
without being recognized. Large furniture houses keep an 
ever changing stock for the decoration of the sets, and put 
them at the disposal of the studios on a rental basis. Sets 
of unusual or novel design require special furnishings to 
blend in with the style of the setting. The art director 
provides his own designs for such furniture and acces- 
sories, which are to be executed from the working plans 
of the art department. When the art director has passed 
on the finished sets, the set dresser notifies the various 
other departments which must perform their tasks. Then 
the set is turned over to the director and the production 
begins. 

Although the requirements of the script and the inten- 
tions of the producer and director are the main guides 



86 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

in the design and construction of the sets, other depart- 
ments demand consideration. The most attractive set is 
worthless if it cannot be photographed. Basically, a set is 
lighted from the top of the walls, thus excluding the use of 
ceilings. Since outside of the make-believe of the set there 
is no room without a ceiling, the impression of one must 
be created by other means. Shading the upper portions of 
the walls by lighting is one way, a miniature ceiling an- 
other; sometimes a portion of the ceiling or a row of beams 
will create the necessary illusion. 

The problems of the art director in selecting colors are 
again closely related to those of the cameraman. Since the 
majority of pictures are still photographed in black and 
white, the colors chosen must create a perfect harmony in 
their black and white tones and still be pleasant to the eye. 
The psychological effect of a set strongly disharmonious 
to the eye, although photographically perfect, should be 
considered for the benefit of actor and director. In sets 
which are photographed in daylight with infra-red filters 
to create a night effect, all tones are painted in shades of 
bluish-gray, because all colors with red in them will ap- 
pear photographically very light. 

Sound also must be considered. The microphone is sus- 
pended on a movable boom, which is a prescribed height 
from the floor. This determines the height of the doors or 
arches, so that the boom can still pass under them when 
the camera precedes the actors in a trucking shot in which 
the camera approaches the subject by having the tripod 
on wheels. But construction materials are now so well 
standardized for sound that this problem has been prac- 
tically eliminated for the art director. 

The construction department is most closely connected 
with the practical work of the art director. Since we only 



DESIGNING THE SETS 87 

see the images of sets on the screen, the construction of 
sets is based on principles entirely different from those of 
the building trades. A set might appear to be constructed of 
heavy stone roughly-hewn; actually it is made of studs 
sufficient to hold up the heavy-looking front. The stones 
are cast in plaster from the surface of real stones, but are 
hollow in back; in cases of great weight they are cast in 
papier-mache. A large variety of imitation materials are 
used, wood and marble photographed on paper being two 
of the most commonly employed. 

If the script calls for an elevated set, that is, a set like 
a theater balcony, the head of the construction department 
estimates the amount of lumber and steel needed for the 
framework, so that the set will be strong enough to with- 
stand the strain of a balcony full of people. This type of 
set must be built in accordance with the insurance and state 
building laws. 

The art director must also contend with the problem of 
the safety of the sets. This does not mean the ordinary con- 
struction safety, which has already been provided, but the 
safety of the many trick effects to be used on the sets. 
Suppose a script calls for a fire to break out in a room, 
or for an explosion to occur. It is true that the material 
employed for such effects is comparatively harmless. But 
harmlessness is not enough. The widest possible margin 
must provide for the construction department to cope 
with all difficulties. The walls and backings must be fire- 
proof, and the sets must meet the rigorous fire laws of the 
state. The ventilation outlets must have been indicated in 
the plans, and pipes laid for an additional water supply. 

If a ship has been built so that it may be wrecked dur- 
ing the shooting, the exact force necessary to wreck it 
must have been computed beforehand, because it is practi- 



88 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

cally impossible to retake the scene. All walls, boards and 
railings which break or fly through the air are carefully 
placed to insure the minimum accident hazards. In short, 
the art director must constantly co-operate with the vari- 
ous departments so that the sets will be safe for any shot 
demanded by the script. 

There are many other departments which help in the 
execution of sets. All major studios are practically self- 
sufficient in crafts. They have complete foundries, machine 
shops, electrical and engineering departments, draperies, 
furniture, properties, printing shops and metal works. All 
of these have only one purpose: to make illusion look like 
reality. What they produce has no other value than a 
photographic one; what they manufacture cannot be sold 
as a product in itself. Only on the screen do these things 
come to life, carry conviction and look unquestionably 
right, whereas off the screen they look like odd contrap- 
tions. 

The electrical department has a special unit which works 
independently of the unit which lights the sets. It has 
charge of all fixtures, wiring and switches in the set which 
are seen but not used. Sometimes a script calls for practical 
wiring that is, when the action of the scene calls for an 
actor to switch on the light. Here the light would go on, 
but at the same instant heavy lights concealed above or 
around the set would also be lit. This would give the illu- 
sion on the screen that the only illumination of the set was 
made by the actor. The electrical department must also 
carefully match the various lighting accessories to the 
period of the furniture. For example, the wiring and 
switches of a Dutch home in 1900 would be quite different 
from anything we use today. 

The drapery department works directly under the set 



DESIGNING THE SETS 89 

dresser, and employs a number of women who make up 
the drapes and curtains for the sets. Very few of these 
drapes are stock drapes, because each set demands a par- 
ticular atmosphere to which the curtains and sets must 
conform. 

The art department is one of the first of the studio forces 
to come in contact with the story during its preparation and 
is one of the last to leave the production. Prior to the 
actual shooting, the sets must be designed and constructed. 
During production, the unit art director stands by for 
possible changes or emergencies and supervises the con- 
struction of additional sets as they are bruit. When the ac- 
tual shooting is over, the art director checks on the final 
order to strike or demolish the sets, with parts preserved 
for possible future use and all furnishings returned. He 
must know every set and its component pieces in order 
to preserve the most of each; or, if the set lends itself to 
easy remodeling for another currently contemplated pic- 
ture, he must know the necessary changes to be made. 

In short, the art director is responsible for creating the 
reality of the backgrounds, against which the characters in 
the story move, so that an illusion of the screen world may 
be preserved. 



VII 

ON THE SPOT 



Robert Edward Lee 



assistant director might well be termed the liaison 
officer of the production to which he is assigned. He 
might equally well be termed the director's mouthpiece, 
for that is precisely what he is. 

His office is the clearing-house for the production, and 
from it and him emanate all the data, the requisitions, 
the orders that start the huge studio wheels and the wheels 
within wheels, and keep them turning until the produc- 
tion is finished. 

From the moment the production office assigns him to 
a picture and tosses a script into his lap, the assistant is 
"on the spot 7 * and in more ways than one. His is a thank- 
less job at best. He must be constantly on duty, not only 
during the day but at night as well, as practically all set 
construction and set changes are made at night, thereby 
avoiding the unnecessary and costly delays to units shoot- 
ing during the day. The first to reach the studio in the 
morning, he is the last to leave at night. But the days are 
too short in which to accomplish his many tasks; conse- 
quently each evening finds him planning, plotting and 
scheduling for tomorrow. 

His, also, is the task of explaining to department heads 
precisely what the director wishes. In this he frequently 

90 



ON THE SPOT 91 

finds himself on that well-known spot again. He must be 
the world's champion guesser, especially when attempt- 
ing to translate the precise meaning of some cryptic phrase 
the director has hastily thrown over his shoulder in an- 
swer to a perplexing question. He must know the direc- 
tor's exact meaning. This question might involve the height 
of Miss Dietrich's heels or the manner in which Clark 
Gable's mustache is to be trimmed. It is up to the assist- 
ant to see that the director's wishes are faithfully and 
meticulously carried out. This frequently requires finesse. 
A good assistant must be a combination of a finished diplo- 
mat and a tough, hard-boiled army sergeant, knowing 
when to cajole and when to revert to more down-to- 
earth tactics. 

Let's go with him and see precisely how he operates 
and why. 

The script has arrived. It is the final version. As it now 
stands, with the exception of minor changes in dialogue 
and action, it will be shot. The sets, the characters, the 
major props and sequence of action will not be materially 
affected by any slight deviations the director might make 
on the set. The production office wants a breakdown 
immediately. So do the various department heads. They 
all have copies of the script, but until they receive the 
assistant's breakdown they toil not, neither do they spin, 
at least not as far as this picture is concerned. 

A breakdown is precisely what its name implies: a 
breaking down or itemizing, in minute detail, of the re- 
quirements of each and every department in the studio. 
Nothing is too small, too commonplace to be omitted. 
Nothing is left to the imagination. Everything needed for 
the production is included down to the last detail. This 
breakdown informs each department exactly what it will 



92 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

be required to furnish throughout the entire production, 
with full descriptions and quantities enumerated. It is the 
studio Bible. 

The studio is waiting for it, demanding it. Cost esti- 
mates by each department must be formulated and sub- 
mitted to the production office. They will not be made up 
until the breakdown is received. Certain props may have 
to be manufactured, materials ordered from afar, and many 
other items obtained, all of which involve the expenditure 
of both time and money. It is not only essential but vital 
that the assistant director produce it as quickly as possible. 

With his assistant he starts. The first of their chores 
is a SET LIST, which includes all the sets in the production 
separated into two groups: INTERIORS and EXTERIORS. Each 
set is followed by the word DAY or NIGHT or, as it some- 
times happens, by both, signifying when the action in the 
story takes place. They are further qualified by the nota- 
tions STAGE, BACK LOT or LOCATION, denoting where this 
particular set is to be constructed or, if already standing, 
is to be revamped or shot as it is. This list is primarily 
intended for the departments most intimately concerned 
with the construction and dressing of the sets. 

Then come the actors and actresses. They will be 
grouped under three major headings: CAST, BITS and EX- 
TRAS. This list is basically of interest to only two depart- 
ments: the casting and wardrobe. The former procures 
them and the latter dresses them. Under the division la- 
beled CAST will be the star or stars and the more promi- 
nent supporting players. The assistant has little, if any- 
thing, to do with the selection of the cast. This is in- 
variably done by the producer, the director and the cast- 
ing office. 

Now he is ready for the COSTUME or WARDROBE PLOT. 



ON THE SPOT 93 

This plot is extremely valuable, and considerable care is 
exercised in its making. It is an effective means of pre- 
venting a player from appearing in the wrong costume, 
thereby getting a howl from the audience and a line in 
the "Movie-Boners" column. This COSTUME PLOT is a com- 
plete resume of all costume changes for every actor and 
actress in the production. 

In the average motion picture, the star, if a woman, 
will have from ten to twenty changes of wardrobe. These 
changes are governed by the sequences in the script. Each 
sequence normally ends with a fade-out, denoting a lapse 
of time, and each player, male or female, appearing in 
more than one sequence must have a different costume 
for each. Frequently, in the case of an actress, the addi- 
tion of a coat or wrap makes one of the changes, while 
in the male ranks a different shirt or even necktie accom- 
plishes the same end. 

Costumes are invariably designed and made for the star 
and, usually, for the feminine members of the supporting 
cast. The male members of the cast supply their own ward- 
robe, unless it is a period production when clothes will 
have to be furnished to them as well. The assistant can- 
not claim fashion design as one of his many attributes, 
consequently he confines his description of feminine wear- 
ing apparel to a mere statement of type or the purpose 
for which it is to be worn, such as: evening gown, street 
outfit, pyjamas, sports outfit for the beach, leaving the de- 
sign and making in the capable hands of the wardrobe. 
He will make a notation, however, when two feminine 
players are to appear in the same scene, to prevent the 
wardrobe from dressing them in similar patterns or colors. 
It is a simple matter to make up the plot for the male play- 
ers, as their clothes are more to his understanding. 



94 



WE MAKE THE MOVIES 



Each costume change is numbered: No. i, 2, 3, and 
so on. Number one will embrace all the scenes from scene 
one through scene forty-five, number two will include 
all the scenes from scene forty-six through scene fifty- 
seven; and so it continues until the entire script is covered. 
Thus it is a simple matter to check the costumes to be 
worn by merely referring to the scene numbers in which 
the actor appears: 

Now follows the most important classification: the 
SHOOTING BREAKDOWN. This is, in effect, a short summa- 
rized version of the script, incorporating every essential 
detail of each set in the production. One page or more 
will be devoted to each set. This BREAKDOWN will include 
the following data: 

NAME OF SEX: With the number of the stage or the loca- 
tion where it will be shot. 

SCENE NUMBERS: Of all scenes taking place in this set, the 
designation of the sequences, together with 
the number of pages of dialogue. 
The names of each member of the cast 
who appear in this set; also the number or 
numbers of the costumes they are to wear. 
Each listed specifically, with the number 
of actors required and the wardrobe to be 
worn. 

To be carried by the actors, or placed on 
the set. Also animals, conveyances, break- 
away chairs, clocks, mirrors, etc. 
Everything pertaining to music: direct re- 
cording, clearance on songs to be used, 
musical supervision, etc. 
Rain, fog, snow, wind, process shots. 
Anything to gain an effect other than 
normal. 

Important data for construction depart- 
ment: break-away doors, candy glass for 



CAST: 

BIT and EXTRA 

PLAYERS: 

SPECIAL PROPS: 
MUSIC: 

EFFECTS: 

CONSTRUCTION: 



ON THE SPOT 95 

windows, practical running water, jockey 

walls, practical fireplaces, miniature work. 

MISCELLANEOUS: Every item of importance that cannot be 

classified under one of the above headings. 

It can easily be seen that this breakdown covers the 
script in a minute, though extremely condensed, fashion. 
Each department, at a glance, can gain a thorough knowl- 
edge of the requirements for the set in question. It is their 
guide. While die production office sets the starting date, 
it is the breakdown that sets the studio wheels in mo- 
tion, starts the activity that will continue until the last 
scene is taken. It sends wardrobe girls from shop to shop 
selecting silks, woolens, shoes anything and everything 
for costumes: property men scurrying about for rare or 
odd props and furnishings. It prompts casting departments 
to line up actors and actresses; it speeds location men hunt- 
ing for locations. It is the starting gun in the big race. 

From the breakdown, with its infinite attention to de- 
tail, the assistant will make up the shooting schedule. This 
schedule gives the list of the sets in the order in which 
they will be shot, the actors appearing in them, the num- 
ber of scenes and pages of dialogue, and, more important, 
the time required to complete each set. 

The shooting schedule is, to the assistant at least, the 
one grand headache of his preparation for a picture. The 
angles involved, and they are many, force him to change 
the schedule time without number until he has, at last, 
satisfied everybody and every department. 

Time is the essence of motion-picture costs: conse- 
quently the assistant labors to make a schedule entailing 
the fewest number of days possible to complete produc- 
tion. But the snags are varied and sundry. 

First the director has to be considered. Can he shoot 



96 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

out of continuity, and how muchand still get a good 
picture? Can he jump all over the script, a portion of one 
sequence here followed by another there, and when the 
finished product is shown on the screen will it be good 
box office? After all, there is little use in making a picture 
if it is to be doomed by a shooting schedule. 

Second, will the sets be ready, and the costumes, and all 
the odds and ends entering into the making of a picture? 
Will the actors be available on the dates needed? Will 
there be other pictures in production that will interfere 
with this one in the matter of stage space or taxing the 
physical production layout of the studio too heavily? Will 
the music, if it is a musical picture, be recorded in time 
to permit playbacks to be used on the set? These ques- 
tions must all be answered before the assistant can hope 
to make up a shooting schedule. 

He goes scouting for information. The art department, 
the wardrobe, the casting office are, as far as he is con- 
cerned, the major departments in the picture. He asks them 
all the same questions. When will the sets be ready? What 
date can you deliver the costumes? Will these actors be 
available on the dates specified? If not, when? 

Armed with this data, he makes a tentative schedule, 
hoping against hope that it will meet with the approval 
of the production office. Wrong again! There he encoun- 
ters more reasons which necessitate new changes. More 
juggling of sets and dates. Small wonder he finds the 
shooting schedule such an arduous task. But perseverance 
wins out. Ultimately, usually just before the first day of 
shooting, he has formulated a schedule satisfactory to all 
concerned. He is happy again. 

And now with most of the paper work out of the way, 
he settles down to the other details of production prepa- 



ON THE SPOT 97 

ration. Make-up and hairdressing tests for his principal 
characters must be made before the production starts. 
The assistant supervises the tests. Costumes must be fitted, 
and passed upon by the director. If animals or conveyances 
are to be used, they must be paraded in front of the di- 
rector, giving him the final choice in their selection. And 
the same holds true with every important prop and ele- 
ment that will be used in the picture. 

Bit players must be interviewed, passed on to the di- 
rector and, if found satisfactory, properly costumed. Ex- 
tras must be seen and chosen. A staff must be assembled: 
cameramen and their assistants, sound men, script clerk, 
property men, grips, and the score of technicians invalu- 
able to any picture. Sides or pages containing their lines 
must be struck off and given to the actors. Stand-ins must 
be selected for the principals, physical examinations for the 
cast. Locations and costume sketches must be shown to 
the director for his approval. These are merely a few of 
the aspects of preparation. There are so many there is not 
sufficient space to enumerate them. But, needless to say, 
the assistant does not find time dragging heavily on his 
hands. 

FinaUy the fateful Saturday arrives. Pictures usually 
start on Monday. The assistant makes out his call sheet 
and posts it early in the forenoon. The call is "Ready on 
the set, 9:00 A.M. Monday," followed by the name of the 
set, the stage number, the actors needed, the costumes 
they wear and notice of hairdressers and make-up people 
needed. To the casting office he sends the slips denoting 
the starting dates of the principals, and a requisition for 
the bits and extras. 

The rest of the day he spends in checking the things 
needed for Monday. Is the set dressed? Has the director 



98 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

seen and O.K.'d it? Are all the props ready? He tries the 
doors and windows of the set, to see that they work 
properly. Are the electricians all rigged and ready to go 
at nine on Monday? Does the floor creak? He tries it. 
Is the fireplace practical and has the plumber been noti- 
fied to operate the gas in it? And, by the same token, 
has the fireman been ordered to stand by with a fire ex- 
tinguisher? Is the star's portable dressing-room on the 
stage? Does the water in the sink drain out quietly? Has 
the script clerk a stop watch to tell the footage of a scene 
by the time it runs? Are the cast chairs ready with their 
names on the backs? Is the camera boom ready and the 
track laid? Does the sound department know the first shot 
is a boom shot, so they will have their mike on roller 
skates? Have silence pads been fitted to the actors' shoes 
strips of felt glued to the soles and heels? Did casting 
get in touch with the bit actor needed the one who went 
to the beach for the day? Has the star's wig been de- 
livered? Have costumes been delivered to the dressing- 
rooms and dressers ordered for the principals? Has 
make-up been notified to use two points darker make-up 
on the heavy? Does the gaffer know there is a light change 
in the first scene so he can arrange his switch boxes ac- 
cordingly? Has the piano on the set been silenced and 
music notified to have a recording piano and pianist off- 
stage? Has the porcelain jacket for the star's tooth been 
finished? Have tie pictures on the set been gauzed down? 
And so it goes nothing is too small, too insignificant to 
escape the merciless checking. 

It is late when he finally leaves the studio. He is wor- 
ried. Things are going altogether too smoothly. Something 
is wrong something must be wrong because, apparently, 
nothing is wrong. Nothing seems to have been overlooked, 



ON THE SPOT 99 

and that is unusual. Mentally he goes over the routine 
checking again. Everything seems to be set for the jump- 
off on Monday. Well, Monday will tell the tale. 

Tomorrow will be his last day of relaxation for six long 
weeks. The last day he can call his own, as the normal 
picture averages six weeks in production. Six weeks in 
which he will be a stranger to his family and his friends, 
six weeks in which his waking and sleeping hours will be 
devoted to the studio and the production just starting. 

No industry in the world demands and, incidentally, 
exacts such long hours, such singleness of purpose and 
thought, such doglike devotion, as the movie industry. 
From the first day of production to the last, the thought 
uppermost in everyone's mind is the picture. And that 
holds true for everyone connected with the actual pro- 
duction. 

Bright and early Monday he is in the studio. More 
checking. On his way to the set he stops in at the dressing- 
rooms of the various actors, who, by the way, are usually 
in the studio by seven in the morning for make-up. He 
finds them in various stages of make-up and dress. In the 
women's building hairdressers and make-up people hover 
about. Girls are under driers, having lips done, make-up 
base applied, powdering, or in the throes of getting false 
eyelashes. Everything seems to be going nicely, and, in 
the background, wardrobe girls are awaiting their chance 
to slip on the dresses. The feminine portion of the cast 
will be ready on time. Then to the men's quarters. Here, 
too, everything seems to be under control save for a false 
mustache or an obstinate hair-piece. So far, so good. Now 
for the set. 

The set is chaotic. Set dressers, electricians, grips, sound 
men and property men clutter the sound stage. It is the 



100 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

first day's turmoil and is to be expected, as the crew is 
strange to one another. It will take a few days to settle 
into the harness and pull together: to function as a unit 
rather than as a score of individuals. Fully realizing these 
chaotic first days, the assistant has allowed for it in his 
shooting schedule and mapped out a rather light day for 
the start. 

By the time the director arrives chaos has given 
way to a semblance of order. Cameras have been set up, 
sound channels tested, props checked and the actors called 
from their dressing-rooms. It is now up to the director to 
stage his action and, as the huge stage doors slowly close, 
all is in readiness for the first set-up. 

Cameras are placed and the first rehearsal is under way. 
After he has staged the action to his satisfaction, the direc- 
tor takes the principals offstage to run through their lines, 
making such changes or corrections as he desires. The 
assistant, for benefit of cameras and sound, holds a re- 
hearsal, but with the stand-ins instead of the principals. 
The same walks, the same stops, the same turnings, in fact 
everything the principals have done except the reading of 
lines, is rehearsed in slow motion. Ultimately lights are 
satisfactorily set, focuses obtained and mike positions as- 
certained. Everything is ready for a take. One more quick 
rehearsal, this time with the principals, a final checking of 
make-up, a loud shout of "Quiet" and the red lights are 
on. The cameras begin to turn and soon the first scene 
will be history. The picture has actually begun. 

It is not, however, as simple as it reads. Many elements- 
far too many for the assistant's peace of mind enter into 
the completion of a good take. The most, insignificant 
trifle can mar or make a scene. A fly, for instance. Should 
it alight on the face of an actor, the irate director will 




Shooting a scene on location from "The Gay Desperado? The stage helper, 
the sound mixer's assistant, has improvised a microphone boom from a fishing 
pole to record Leo CaniMs voice. The assistant cameraman kas brought the 
two clap boards together over the signal board to synchronise sound and 
picture Seated next to the camera is director Rouben Mamulixn, and stand- 
ins over his left shoulder is Robert Lee, the assistant director. The tvo arc 
lights are "booster" lights used to eliminate deep shadows. (Courtesy of 
Pickford-Lasky Productions.) 



ON THE SPOT 101 

scream "Cut" and, as he reproachfully eyes the assistant, a 
property man rushes in and fills the set with Flit. When 
the mist has cleared the scene is begun again. Or in the 
process of a take, the Goodyear blimp roars over the stage, 
its motor noise cutting through the actor's lines. Before the 
director can yell "cut," the assistant is on the stage phone, 
frantically imploring Miss Lola to radio the blimp to leave 
the vicinity of the studio. The blimp pilot is Miss Lola's 
boy friend. And as the motor noise recedes in the dis- 
tance, once again the scene is resumed. 

Perhaps they are shooting a scene from the middle of 
the story. It is the rare exception, rather than the rule, 
to shoot a script in strict continuity. The scenes just pre- 
ceding and those immediately following have not been 
taken and, in all probability, will not be taken for weeks 
to come. The scene has been rehearsed, shot, and the prints 
O.K.'d. But everyone on the set overlooked one thing: 
the actor should have made an exit wearing a white bou- 
tonniere, as there is business with it in later scenes. The 
show stops when the mistake is discovered. The director 
looks askance at the assistant; it is the assistant's fault, as 
the director is occupied with more important matters 
than matching a little prop. When the property man comes 
back, breathless, with the forgotten flower, the scene is 
reshot. And so it goes: rehearse and shoot, rehearse and 
shoot, all day and every day until the production is fin- 
ished. 

.The bane of an assistant's life is location. To most of the 
troupe it is a picnic. The fresh air and the sunshine, in 
marked contrast to the stuffy suffocation of a dark sound 
stage, is a welcome and pleasant change indeed. But not 
to the poor assistant director. Shooting in the studio, with 
its marvelous facilities at his fingertips, he still encounters 



102 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

countless difficulties: but location, miles away from the 
studio, is nothing less than pure grief. He is too far from 
his base of supplies. He is constantly finding himself in 
the predicament of the mocking-bird "out on a limb." 

Location adds an incredible number of duties and a 
thousand new worries to those commonly occurring when 
shooting in the studio: transportation, hotels, if an over- 
night location, lunches, hordes of visitors, sanitary arrange- 
ments, changeable weather and a score of details too nu- 
merous to mention here. On location his functions are not 
merely those of an assistant director: added to them are 
the duties of every department head in the studio. He ob- 
tains sites, builds sets and dresses them, hires laborers, em- 
ploys extras, buys and rents props, and makes practically 
every arrangement to expedite the completion of the work 
mapped out for this location. 

A unit on location is strangely reminiscent of an itiner- 
ant circus touring the small towns. With its battery of 
trucks, usually six or eight, for props, lights, grip equip- 
ment, cameras, greenery, livestock and sound equipment, 
the huge sound truck, buses for the extras and limousines 
for the staff and cast, it is a fast-moving, self-contained 
mobile unit. And it is safe to say that no circus has ever 
attracted more interest and, certainly, no more visitors. 
From the time the cameras are set up until the last shot, 
there is a constant throng of curious sightseers, bubbling 
over with a million questions. It is then the assistant calls 
upon all his diplomatic powers, as it is he who must handle 
this crowd, keep them quiet, and prevent them from inter- 
fering with the work to be done. More frequently than 
not it is quite a task. 

On location, vastly different from the studio, he has 
a relentless and tireless adversary Nature. The sun, un- 



ON THE SPOT IO3 

fortunately, will not stay put, and the changing light 
forces him to do a sleight-of-hand juggling act with the 
shooting schedule to meet the ever changing conditions. 
Morning light will be necessary for certain scenes, while 
others definitely demand the afternoon sun. This fre- 
quently necessitates actors changing costumes three or four 
times in a day and a new deal all around for set-ups, props 
and action. Or a bank of white billowy clouds roll in. He 
at once changes plans again to take advantage of them or, 
to eliminate them, goes into close-ups. And Nature does 
not rest here. She sends the fog, the wind, the rain or the 
dust, birds singing in the trees, crickets chirping in the 
brush, deep-voiced frogs croaking in the ponds, anything 
and everything to harass a troupe on location. For every 
whim of Nature, the assistant must have a counterplan 
at his very fingertips. The old saying, "The show must go 
on," is never as fraught with meaning as when a company 
is on location. Sometimes he loses in these jousts with 
Nature, but it must be said, and to his credit, his victories 
far outnumber his defeats. 

In the studio or on location the assistant is, directly or 
indirectly, responsible for everything happening on the 
set. There are but two exceptions to this: the direction 
and the performances of the principals. These are in 
the lap of the director alone. But all else: delays of any 
kind, interruptions of shooting, failure of equipment or 
man power, actors improperly costumed, make-up or late- 
ness on the set, bits and extras unable to do what is re- 
quired of them, or anything forgotten, no matter by 
whom; all this is laid at the door of the assistant. An 
assistant has never been right but once and then he was 
wrong. 

He must be a dry nurse to every member of the unit 



104 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

and, on some occasions, more than that. Frequently he 
must handle the purely personal trials and tribulations of 
his director and cast, so their minds may be eased of all 
earthly troubles and devoted exclusively to the artistry 
demanded of them. He must be a Father Confessor, a 
fluttering Dove of Peace and a one-man Advisory Board 
rolled into one. 

He must be versatility itself and a master of many ac- 
complishments: equally proficient in lulling a crying baby 
to sleep or silencing a braying jackass; as familiar with the 
households of the upper strata as with those of the slums; 
and equally adept in handling a temperamental star or 
nursing a ten-ton truck through a bog. 

His sense of discernment must be keen and his nose for 
impending disaster acute. Quick to recognize the foibles 
of his director, he wards off and weeds out the many 
annoyances that might tend to affect the day's work. 
Should an actor suddenly be taken ill, he invariably has a 
plan conceived and waiting for just such an emergency, 
that will permit the unit to function with a minimum loss 
of time. 

The producer has been likened to a field marshal and 
the director to a general, in which case it makes of the 
assistant the company commander; and he is always found, 
where a good captain should be, on the firing line. He is 
the co-ordinating force of the many and sundry physical 
elements necessary in making a picture; he must blend the 
component parts into a harmonic whole; and it is his skill- 
ful blending and wise co-ordinating that maintains the 
production on schedule and sends it out into the amuse- 
ment world with an even chance of winning honors as 
entertainment and, what is more important, as good box 
office. 



ON THE SPOT 105 

The assistant is answerable to two superiors, both of 
whom, incidentally, are hard taskmasters the director and 
the production office. To please both is a difficult yet 
compulsory task. The artistry of the director is, usually, 
at great variance with the ideas of the cost-conscious pro- 
duction office. Artistry, in this day and age, is not by any 
means a cheap commodity: it demands time, time is money, 
and production costs mount with amazing rapidity. Con- 
sequently the assistant is constantly between two fires: 
allied with the director one moment and with the produc- 
tion office the next. But in either event, and quite regard- 
less, he is sure of one thing: he is certain to be "on the 
spot." 



VIII 

THE PLAYERS ARE CAST 

Phil Friedman 



THE job of the casting director concerns that very 
personal element in the industry: acting talent. He 
must see plays, he must interview thousands of actors and 
actresses, and he must cast every story except for the stars, 
who are customarily chosen by the director and the pro- 
ducer. In this he is aided by a battery of assistants, whose 
work he supervises in choosing the lesser players* He must 
act as agent between his and other departments. And al- 
ways, his selections for each production must meet with 
the approval of the head of the studio, the producer and 
the director. 

When the story is in its formative stages, the casting 
director receives a brief outline so that he knows what 
characters will be necessary and can make his suggestions 
for the players accordingly. 

When the script is ready, he receives his copy. From the 
breakdown of the assistant director, which lists the number 
of shooting days, the members of the cast and the number 
of scenes in which each actor appears, the casting director 
can ascertain the total number of days each actor will be 
needed and the number of days he will be idle, that is, 
when he will not be required for certain scenes. 

Every casting director has his special classifications of 

106 



THE PLAYERS ARE CAST IOJ 

the thousands of players listed in Hollywood. His own 
studio roster consists of stars, feature and bit players, who 
form the studio stock company, similar to a theatrical stock 
company. A contract player or star is an actor or actress 
who has a term contract for six months. This contains 
options renewable up to seven years, a guaranteed salary 
for twenty out of twenty-six weeks, whether or not the 
player works, and a lay-off period of six weeks during 
which he must have at least one consecutive week's lay-off. 
A contract also provides for a rising salary scale. The studio 
has, besides its regular contract players, players who are 
known as picture people. These are stars, not under ex- 
clusive contract to the studio, who arrange to make a cer- 
tain number of pictures for the studio, generally two a 
year. 

Of the supporting players, who are considered impor- 
tant in bolstering up a picture, but are not box-office attrac- 
tions themselves, there are the feature and bit players. 
Feature players are those contracted for a week at the 
minimum, while bit players are engaged by the day. 

There are many thousands of free-lance players in Hol- 
lywood. These include any actor who receives over twenty- 
five dollars a day, which is the minimum salary for bit 
players. Many picture people free-lance after their com- 
mitments have been fulfilled. They often feel that they 
have more opportunity for good roles when they are not 
exclusively under contract to one studio. 

The main classifications in the directory are stars and 
feature players: male and female. The casting director may 
include the same actress in several sub-classifications so that 
he will be sure not to overlook her. For example, he will 
list Janet Gaynor both as an ingenue and as a young lead- 
ing woman, because of the distinction between the two 



I08 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

types and because she can qualify for both. Other classi- 
fications include character men and women, comedians and 
comediennes, colored people, orientals, musical and spe- 
cialty talent. He may list a supporting player in four or five 
classifications such as a young leading man, a heavy, a char- 
acter actor and a foreigner. 

From his directory, the casting director makes his sug- 
gestions for the various players on an assignment sheet 
which he sends to the producer and director with his rea- 
sons. Then all three discuss them in conference. If the 
director is doubtful about any of his selections, he will test 
the actors himself. Otherwise the casting director arranges 
for the tests, which are called production tests because they 
are made for a particular picture. Perhaps the studio wishes 
to borrow an actor who has just completed a similar role 
at another studio. Then the picture in which he appeared 
is run off. If the studio decides to engage him, an arrange- 
ment with his studio is made. If he is a star, he is loaned 
at a fixed sum. If he is a feature player, he is guaranteed 
four weeks' salary plus what is called an accumulated car- 
rying charge, fixed at three weeks' salary. This is to reim- 
burse his studio for carrying the actor during his idle 
period, because when he is loaned to another studio it may 
interfere with his home studio commitments and consider- 
able time may be lost before the schedule at his home studio 
can be rearranged. ' Lesser supporting players who are 
loaned for roles lasting less than two weeks are paid at the 
rate of two weeks' double salary. 

With the cast finally established, the budget for salaries 
must be computed and checked by the production office. 
Its approval by the producer prepares the way for the final 
step in casting: drawing up the contracts. The casting 
director must be sure to engage players who have no other 



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Assignment sheet of the casting director, including the shooting schedule. Each 
actor is assigned a number at lie bottom of the sheet. The column of numbers 



110 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

commitments at the time. If they have, shooting schedules 
must be so arranged that an actor's assignments do not con- 
flict. The pre-shooting duties of the casting director are 
over. 

When production begins, the assistant director each day 
notifies the casting department of the additional people 
required for the following day as extra talent for racial or 
atmospheric groups and bits. An extra is any actor not 
required to speak lines who receives $16.50 or less per day 
and is not under contract to the studio. A bit player is an 
actor required to speak lines who receives twenty-five dol- 
lars a day. If an extra is required to speak lines, he auto- 
matically becomes a bit player. 

When the studio first needed extra talent, great throngs 
of people, lured by the promise of good wages, flocked to 
Hollywood. Many agencies sprang up to accommodate all 
these people, and there were always crowds in front of 
their offices waiting for jobs. If a studio needed extra 
talent, a casting director from one of the agencies would 
glance over the crowd and select the types he thought best* 
In return, the actors were obliged to pay the agency a 
percentage of their earnings. This system was both unfair 
and inefficient. And as the industry grew, it became neces- 
sary to have one reliable source of extra talent. So the 
studios took over the best of the agencies and jointly 
agreed to share expenses, charge no commissions and use 
it exclusively. On January 2, 1926, the Central Casting 
Corporation was founded by the Association of Motion 
Picture Producers. Since then, it has become the largest 
employment agency in the world, giving three hundred 
and fifty thousand jobs each year. Every day, over eleven 
thousand calls come in for work, half of them between 
eight and four each day, then every five minutes from 



THE PLAYERS ARE CAST III 

four to eight in the evening. The incoming calls average 
between seven and eight hundred an hour. 

The studio casting directors send their orders for extra 
talent over three teletype machines to Central Casting. 
Here a bell rings, a light shows, and the order is automati- 
cally typed out. This lists the date, the time the extras must 
report, the name of the director, the number of the pro- 
duction, the type of make-up necessary and whether or not 
doubling is permitted, that is, whether an extra who has 
already worked in that production may be used again. 
Then the number of extras, their ages, costumes, salaries 
and any extra specifications required are listed. 

For example, an order came in for two hundred and 
thirty-five extras to appear the next morning, rain or shine 
at nine o'clock, without make-up, with doubling permitted, 
for a Sunday picnic for the Truck Drivers' Union. All the 
characters were truck and van drivers and all extras were 
to wear their Sunday best small-town spring clothes, with 
no straw hats or anything white. Of those required, forty- 
six women and seventy-five men were to receive $5.50 a 
day, twenty-three women and seventy-five men $8.25, and 
fifteen men $11 a day. 

All wage distinctions for extras depend on the appear- 
ance, physical type and wardrobe. The lowest wage, $5.50, 
is paid for nondescript mobs and atmospheric types. Better 
physical types and better-dressed extras are paid on a rising 
scale. Attendants, porters and the like receive $8.25. Extras 
who take the parts of policemen, waiters, detectives and 
more desirable physical types, such as bank directors and 
people in street clothes, are paid $11 a day. The highest- 
paid extras are dress extras who receive $16.50 a day and 
must provide and maintain their own wardrobes, which in- 
clude complete evening, afternoon and sports outfits. 



112 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

For a scene representing the exterior of a concert hall, a 
call came in for: 

1 woman, 25-35 years, wear fall street clothes, hat and 

coat, bring along car, must be late model, $2.50 
extra for car $11. 

2 men, 35-45 years, wear full dress with top coats, hats, 

canes and gloves $16.50. 

3 women 20-25 years, wear late-winter evening gowns 

and wraps, nice hair, dress and jewelry, nothing 
black, wear colors $16.50. 

All period costumes and uniforms are provided and fitted 
by the studios. 

When the call sheets come in, they are given to one of 
the five assistant casting directors, who sits in front of a 
call board containing the names of a thousand extras not 
working that day. The name plate of each extra has a num- 
ber of colored dots which indicate his or her wardrobe. 
As the calls of the extras seeking work come in, they are 
conveyed by a loudspeaker directly from the telephone 
switchboards to the specially constructed desks, so that the 
assistant casting director may have any call turned over to 
him. Then he fills in the names of those calling, or phones 
extras he particularly wants. 

Registered files are kept of all extras according to sex, 
age, height, general appearance, listing all physical assets 
and peculiarities in detail, such as chinlessness or broken 
nose, size of feet, buck teeth, cauliflower ears and bony 
legs. All manner of detail is listed, from the way an extra 
wears clothes to previous occupation, practical experience, 
proficiency at sports, stunts, imitations, musical instruments 
and languages. The main classifications are dancers, cow- 



THE PLAYERS ARE CAST 113 

boys, college boy and girl types, character parts and mis- 
cellaneous, which include all types from freckled-face 
babies to knife-throwers and contortionists. 

A machine called the mechanical casting director can be 
used in any emergency to pick the required type. This goes 
through the complete file of extras selecting the desired 
qualifications by the numbers on their cards. But the me- 
chanical casting director is rarely used because the assist- 
ants know the files so well that they can immediately call 
any extras to mind. The head casting director of Central 
Casting has an even more remarkable memory: he knows 
the names, addresses, wardrobes and qualifications of three 
thousand extras by heart. 

If the director wants to select his own extras, interview 
extras are sent out to the studios. This means that the di- 
rector is given an hour and a half in which to interview 
them. If he keeps them longer, they are paid on a quarter- 
check basis up to two hours, and every two hours there- 
after. Those not chosen are paid carfare by the studios. 
Of the twelve thousand five hundred extras registered 
only about 5 per cent of those registered get calls. Actually, 
there is work for only about five hundred of them. To join 
the ranks of the extras is the quickest way down. There is 
almost no hope of advancement and there is every chance 
of slipping. No other employment agency has had so many 
failures. Everything possible is done to discourage people 
from becoming extras. The lists are closed except for a 
request from the studios or when special types are needed, 
such as a hunchback or one-legged man. 

Only a handful of stars have risen from the extra ranks 
and today this is extremely rare. Studios seek star material 
in more recognized channels. They are particularly anxious 
to develop their own players. In fact, every time a studio 



114 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

signs a contract with a feature player, they hope for a new 
star. Feature players are given important assignments. If 
they do well, and the reaction at the box office is favorable, 
they become stars in their own right. But stardom is 
extremely unpredictable. Often players who have been 
dropped by one studio are engaged by another and become 
stars overnight, whereas other equally talented players may 
not become stars for years. This is always the result of a 
combination of circumstances in which temperament un- 
doubtedly plays a part. 

Outside of the studio, producers and directors are always 
searching for new stars. Talent scouts comb the little thea- 
ters, college dramatics, benefit performances, local radio 
stations, and night clubs throughout the country for poten- 
tial screen idols. And with the renewed activity in road 
shows, they are increasingly covering the legitimate fields. 
Working from New York as a center, they communicate 
with the nearest office in New York or California. If the 
prospective talent cannot go to either to be tested, a news- 
reel cameraman makes preliminary tests which are then sent 
to Hollywood. 

The material for a dramatic screen test varies with the 
individual. It may be a one-act playlet or it may have to be 
specially written. It should always give the prospective 
screen actress or actor as much variety as possible. Ordi- 
narily, an actress who is accustomed to the stage waits for 
an audience reaction before continuing her lines. But in 
taking a screen test she has a total lack of response and the 
added confusion of perhaps ten technicians hovering around 
her. Under such circumstances she is apt to be under a 
disadvantage and to give a wooden performance. A method 
has been devised to overcome this. A preliminary scene of 
her is made in which she speaks a few impromptu lines. 



THE PLAYERS ARE CAST 115 

These are planned while her make-up is being applied, so 
that she can be as spontaneous as possible. Often, in a pre- 
liminary close-up, she explains in a few words the basic 
idea of the play in which she has been appearing and the 
circumstances of the scene she is about to do. The test is 
shot as though it were a cut-out from a motion picture, 
with numerous angles of her and of the supporting players. 
In this way the producer is enabled to judge the actress 
both in and out of character, so that a scene from her play 
is not his sole criterion of her screen personality. 

If a singer is tested, both photographic and recording 
tests are made. These are equally necessary because a 
trained pitched voice generally gives no indication of the 
screen candidate's personality. If she is a dancer, her best 
routine is photographed, as well as a short scene to give an 
indication of her speaking voice. Tests of specialty and 
acrobatic acts for screen musicals may have to be made on 
rather short notice between bookings. All tests made in 
New York are immediately sent to Hollywood to await 
further decisions. 

If the producer, director and casting director cannot 
decide upon an actress from the studio stock company 
for a particular part, production tests are made in New 
York of actresses on Broadway. If the studio likes one of 
the tests, they take an option on the actress. This may be 
for three months, six months or a year. She will then be 
called to Hollywood to play the particular part desig- 
nated. But the studio will wait until after the preview, 
when the audience reaction will have been gauged. If she 
is well received, the studio will exercise her option. 

If the studio considers a new player who has been dis- 
covered by a talent scout, but who has had little dramatic 
training, the casting director arranges and supervises an 



11 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

audition for him. If the actor needs training, he may be 
coached at the studio or placed in a little theater. Then, 
when they feel he is. ready, he will be given a stock test 
which includes both camera and dialogue. If the test proves 
successful, he will become a member of the studio stock 
company. 

It is futile for ambitious boys and girls to come to Hol- 
lywood on the strength of good looks alone. Dramatic 
training is an essential factor in screen success today. 
Although there are no well-defined rules, dramatic coach- 
ing and voice^ culture are both valuable as a background 
for screen acting. It is far better for a prospective screen 
actor to spend several seasons in a stock company. The 
theatrical field is sufficiently well covered throughout the 
country so that, when a promising actor appears, he can 
always be tested. Thus the studio stock company grows 
and new names are added to the casting director's lists. 

The players are cast. Let them speak for themselves. 




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IX 

THE ACTRESS PLAYS HER PART 

Bette Dam 



AW INVITATION to present the morion-picture in- 
dustry from the viewpoint of its actresses is a great 
honor and a difficult assignment. Never for a moment 
think I am going to be able to do justice to the problems of 
all my famous confreres. It is impossible to generalize about 
the picture business, particularly our branch of it; I can 
only tell you what I have found out for myself. How- 
ever, I do believe I have seen it in most of its moods 
when it has completely ignored me, and when it has been 
more than generous in its belief in me. There is much to 
be learned from both of these attitudes and the variable 
temperatures in between. 

If the studio weather department will hold back the 
artificial fog of glamour for a while, I want to show you 
what it's really like to be a star, and to convince you of 
two things: First, we axe just plain workers here, and 
second, we are more anxious to do work for which you 
will commend us than we are credited with being. That 
ought to be obvious. You will continue to make us and 
break us as long as pictures are shown. In other words, 
we are your humble servants. Oh, yes, we are! 

The most important consideration in a star's career is 

117 



Il8 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

choice of story. Without the proper vehicles very few of 
us would ever have arrived where we are. A kindly dis- 
posed critic may take the trouble to note a good perform- 
ance in an otherwise inferior picture; but the average 
theatergoer is interested in entertainment, and the enter- 
tainment value of a screen play never rests with the star 
alone. Studios employ many talented people for the sole 
purpose of finding suitable material for their top players, 
and only in rare cases is the star permitted to make her 
own selection. Her opinion may be asked, but the final 
decision rests with the studio officials. Usually Joe Doaks 
on Main Street knows what her next assignment will be 
as soon as she does it all depends on who reads the morn- 
ing papers first. 

I personally believe this is not as unfair as it seems, for 
I am of the opinion that actors and actresses are noto- 
riously bad judges of story material. Principally interested 
in the part intended for us and the number of good meaty 
scenes there are for us to play, we are apt to lose sight 
completely of weak and insignificant plot construction or 
the development of the rest of the characters in the story. 
It would be extremely bad taste for me to name the stars 
who, in the past and in the present, have measurably 
damaged their careers by insisting on contracts which per- 
mitted them to choose their own stories. 

Neither does it follow that the studios are always right. 
Often a studio has a script ready to go into production 
with an inferior and uninteresting leading role for either 
the actor or the actress, but the picture must be made 
immediately to meet a release date. Since players are put 
under contract in order to retain their exclusive services, 
they must be paid whether they are working or not; and 



THE ACTRESS PLAYS HER PART lip 

when they are not working they are a worrisome item of 
expense. If the studio has scheduled nothing suitable for 
the star at such a rime, she may be requested to go into 
this production even though they know it is unjust, and 
there is nothing for her to do but play the part, know- 
ing the public will think less of her for it or refuse to 
do it, which usually results in suspension without salary 
for as long as it takes to make the picture in question. 
In short, she gets spanked either way. 

When the public reads in the newspapers that a star 
has "walked out on" her studio, their natural reaction is 
to say, "Tsk! Tsk! -Temper-temper . . . !" Actually the 
reason for it is more likely to be her refusal to disappoint 
her audiences by letting them see her in a role wholly 
unsuited to her talents and below the standard that she 
has consistently fought to maintain. 

The number of pictures a star makes annually is almost 
as important as the selection of her stories. It is easy for 
an audience to tire of an actress it sees too often and it 
appears to get just as weary of her if it doesn't see her 
often enough. In my present contract there is no limit to 
the number of pictures I make in a year, but I believe that 
a contract limiting an actress to four is neither detri- 
mental to her career nor unfair to her studio. If I were 
free-lancing, three would be my limit; first, because screen 
acting is such exhausting work that I think we need long 
vacations between pictures; and second, because it is almost 
impossible to find more than three stories in a year's time 
which are both well-suited to me and worth your money 
at the box office. 

Nothing is more staggering to me than to be asked how 
I create a character. There just isn't any one answer to 



120 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

that question. It depends entirely on what the assignment 
happens to be. 

If I am to play the leading lady in a modern picture, 
my worries as an actress are concerned with wardrobe, 
hairdress, learning the script, and interpreting it to make 
the most of whatever opportunities it offers me. I make a 
practice of discussing all these things with the director 
as soon as possible, to make sure that our conceptions of 
the character are enough alike to avoid misunderstandings 
and costly waste of time on the set while the film is in 
production. 

I should like to add, here, that I have never played a 
part which I did not feel was a person very different from 
myself. The character I am playing stays behind in my 
dressing-room at the end of the day and is waiting for me 
there the following morning. I do not intend this to sound 
as if I were "arty" about my work. On the contrary, I 
am extremely workman-like. Perhaps it is explained by 
the fact that I have neverexcept when I am actually 
working been able to realize that I am known as an 
actress. You have no idea how grateful I am for this frame 
of mind in Hollywood, where it is not easy to keep a 
normal outlook on oneself as a person. While I am acting 
I am living in an imaginary world, bringing imaginary 
people to life, just as I used to "live" the fairy stories I 
read when I was a litde girl. And I think it's the grandest 
game in the world. Whether or not I am always success- 
ful at it, I am constantly trying to make my audience 
know these "phantom" friends of mine as well as I do. 

When the director and I have agreed on the appear- 
ance of the character, the head costume designer (Mr. 
Ony Kelly) and I confer for hours. He makes many 



THE ACTRESS PLAYS HER PART 121 

sketches which we discuss as to their suitabiligr for both 
her and me, and when we have finally decided what she 
is going to wear, the pins, shears and needles start flying 
in the workroom. 

Fitting and sewing costumes year in and year out, the 
skillful women in the workroom are faithful and loyal to 
their stars. Though they receive no credit for the final 
product, they are as interested as we are in seeing that 
gowns are perfect in every detail. Often they are more 
patient than we during the long hours we must stand for 
fittings. They know how the camera will emphasize the 
slightest wrinkle or bad line, and avoiding these defects 
is a matter of pride with them. 

The completed gowns must be tested before the camera. 
This is very important, for even though our costume de- 
signers are trained to know what colors, materials and 
body lines are photographically "right," they sometimes 
make mistakes. A costume which is charming to the eye 
often proves most unattractive photographically, and must 
be replaced or changed. Preliminary tests of wardrobe may 
save the studio large sums of money which might other- 
wise have to be spent on retakes during production. 

"Hair tests" are necessary for the same reason. If the 
camera doesn't happen to like our hairdress, it can do dis- 
astrous things to us. And unless the cameraman is accus- 
tomed to working with us, he usually wants to make pho- 
tographic tests to discover our best "angles" and the most 
effective lighting for our features. 

By the time all of these tests have been made and ap- 
proved by the director and the production head, we are 
ready to start on the actual work of making the picture. 

All of this, as I said, is the customary preparation for 



122 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

a simple, modern leading role. If, however, I am assigned 
to portray a famous character from history or a well- 
known fictional character, or a person with an accent un- 
familiar to me, the little duties really start piling up. End- 
less hours must be spent in reading about them, studying 
their lives and habits, until I feel I know them so well I 
couldn't possibly do anything inconsistent with their char- 
acterization. Imagine how much of such preparation Paul 
Muni must have spent on Pasteur and Zola. I also collect 
pictures of these people at all stages of their lives if they 
are historical, so as to be able to resemble them as closely 
as possible physically. Make-up must be minutely tested 
to get the nearest facial similarity we can, and the cos- 
tumes of the period must be studied thoroughly to avoid 
anachronisms and errors in detail. 

For a fictional character such as Mildred in Of Human 
Bondage, the novel is used as a textbook read and re- 
read until I am thoroughly acquainted with her every 
thought. Scattered descriptions are carefully checked for 
indications of dress and mannerism. With Mildred I had 
the added problem of the cockney accent a frightening 
one for an American actress. My solution of it was to in- 
vite an Englishwoman with a knowledge of cockney to 
live at my house with me. For six weeks before the pic- 
ture began we spoke nothing but cockney, with the re- 
sult that the accent became so natural to me that a great 
part of the time during the shooting of Of Human Bond- 
age I did not even realize I was using it. I sometimes think 
that people who see us on the screen demand much less 
of us in this respect than we do of ourselves. But I have 
a passion for authenticity. 

Every actor has a different method of memorizing lines. 



THE ACTRESS PLAYS HER PART 123 

Though I spend a great deal of time on the script before 
the picture starts, absorbing the story as a whole and de- 
veloping my characterization, I seldom actually learn my 
lines until the night before the shooting of each scene. 
Then they are fresh in my mind for the day's work. But, 
if I have a difficult scene with many long speeches, I start 
learning it weeks ahead, as I find I am usually too tired 
at the end of the day to memorize a scene of this kind 
thoroughly in one evening. 

When the shooting begins, the studio does everything 
in its power to help the star concentrate on her perform- 
ance. She has her own hairdresser, her own wardrobe 
woman to see that her clothes are at all times pressed and 
clean, and a make-up man to watch for any flaws in her 
make-up. And she has her own dressing-room on the set, 
where she may study or rest during the long waits which 
are part of the daily routine. 

Once we start working on a production, that is all we 
are able to do until it is finished. After hours, an actress 
who is conscientious about her work is too tired mentally 
and physically to think of anything but a nice, long, beau- 
tiful rest. Fortunately or unfortunately, I am one of those. 
If the material in the picture is worthless, one has to work 
twice as hard to make something of it; but I have a sin- 
cere desire always to be able to say when the pic- 
ture is finished that I have done the very best I could with 
the part. 

You smiled when I said we get dog-tired. The surest 
way I know to convince you of this is to show you just 
how we work, by describing an average shooting day. 

I get the gentle but compelling touch on the shoulder 
between six and six-thirty in the morning depending on 



124 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

how far I am living from the studio and how elaborate 
my make-up is for the picture I am doing. After I have 
arrived at the studio, it takes at least two hours to have 
my hair dressed and dried and my make-up applied. There 
is usually just rime to get to the set by nine o'clock and 
put on my costume. I am then ready to rehearse for the 
first scene of the day. 

The amount of rehearsing we do is entirely dependent 
on the director. Some directors believe that lots of it in- 
sures a better performance when the cameras start grind- 
ing, I agree with them. As far as Fm concerned, there 
can never be too much rehearsal, for during this rime the 
cast learns to work together and often discovers bits of 
business that give the screen play naturalness and smooth- 
ness. The director of a "B" picture, with a small budget 
and a two or three weeks 7 shooting schedule, obviously 
cannot spend much rime trying scenes out, and the pic- 
ture usually suffers from imperfect performances. But on 
an "A" picture, with an ample budget and six to eight 
weeks' shooting time, it is possible to have plenty of re- 
hearsal and still conform to schedule. 

When we have finished rehearsing, the cameraman is 
given free reign to light the set. Stand-ins, resembling the 
actors in height, weight and general coloring, go through 
the action to be shot, while the cameraman arranges the 
lights. This gives the cast a chance to cool off, refresh 
their make-up, see that all the curls are where they be- 
long, and to discuss the scene with the director if neces- 
sary. Then one final rehearsal for the actors, the camera 
and the sound department and the scene is ready to be 
taken. 

If a scene is shot only once, the incident is recorded 
as a major miracle. More commonly it has to be repeated 




Betre Da" is makes sure far !:a:r is in p. ACS ""or :. j \r .*.,,.. 
of Warner Brothers Pv:.'.'<-sjf. , 



Edimtud Gould ing, the director in ~-/.-/Yc% rehearses Bttrc Dai'is ai:J Lw H inter /,: 

scene fro7ti "That Certain Wojnxii" -^biL' first cameraman Er;:st H.:/. r .r, ieadlng 0,1 t': 

camera, -Batches their camera angle. Courtesy of Tf ~ar,2\?r Brothers PL'Xires. * 




/lr- 

i V "- 







Eette Davis plays a scene vith Lola Lane and Mayo Metbot from "Marked 
Wtmarf* directed by Lloyd Bacon. (Courtesy of Warner Brothers Pictures.} 



THE ACTRESS PLAYS HER PART 125 

from three to as many as fifteen times. Before a take is 
O.K.'d it has to be right for the director as far as per- 
formances are concerned, for the cameraman, and for the 
sound department. The last is a particularly exacting 
master. The sound man must hear every word* distinctly, 
unimpaired by outside noises such as airplane motors, pass- 
ing trucks, coughs, footfalls, or any of a million and one 
other incidental sounds. All of the things which may spoil 
the take for any of the departments are utterly unpredict- 
able. Since the members of the crew know how difficult it 
is to keep a scene alive beyond the third take, they do 
everything in their power to keep things going smoothly. 
You never saw such a display of mass patience and pre- 
caution! Often, of course, the actors themselves are re- 
sponsible for spoiling the shot. We just can't get that 
"something" the director is looking for and we have been 
known to muff lines. The success of a day on the set is 
determined by the degree of co-operation between direc- 
tor, crew and players. No one of us can work alone. We 
need each other. 

An hour for lunch, then back to freshen make-up and 
hairdress and begin again. The day is usually over at six, 
after which most of us spend half an hour in a projection 
room seeing the rushes of the previous day's shooting. 
Now we go to our dressing-rooms, remove make-up, put 
on street clothes and go home, arriving there between 
seven and eight o'clock, slightly the worse for a working 
day of from twelve to fourteen hours. 

But that is not the end of it. Dinner, then off to a quiet 
corner with the script, to batten down enough dialogue 
to carry us through tomorrow. For us, ten-thirty is bed- 
time; there's very little a make-up man can do with circles 
under our eyes. 



126 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

A day's work, and work it is every minute of it. I 
don't think you can name any other profession that re- 
quires so many actual working hours spent in producing 
something to be seen and judged by millions of people 
the world over. It is largely our awareness of responsibil- 
ity to all those people that makes the actual shooting of 
a picture so nerve-racking. Every take must be ap- 
proached as if it were the one which you will see in your 
theater. Everything we've got must go into everything 
we do. 

Fortunately, inside most of us is the love to create, and 
we are more than willing to devote the best years of our 
lives to It- Hollywood pays us well, but the applause we 
receive from our audiences stimulates us to go on and do 
finer things. We want you to let us know you like us. 
Call it childlike if you will; but since our profession is 
dedicated to bringing you moments of pleasure, the meas- 
ure of our success is your response to what we do. You, 
the audience, are literally the fuel that keeps the fire going. 
Never for a minute think we are bored by your praise. 
It is what we live for. 

Another problem peculiar to the life of a morion-picture 
star is publicity. It is a tremendous consumer of time apart 
from our other studio duties, and because it plays such 
a vital part in the development of a star's career it neces- 
sitates a great deal of understanding. 

Thousands of men and women are employed by the 
studios and by the stars themselves to take care of pub- 
licity. Their job is to discover the type of exploitation 
best suited to one's personality, then use it as frequently 
and as tastefully as possible. These are the people who 
give you your ideas as to what we are like apart from 



THE ACTRESS PLAYS HER PART 127 

our roles, and it is to our advantage to co-operate with 
them. 

Everywhere we go, it seems, someone is waiting to take 
a shot of us with a still camera. We pose for portraits, 
for fashion pictures, sports photos of every description, 
and for those so-called "intimate" shots in our homes. 

Personally, I have never believed in the sort of exploita- 
tion you see in commercial advertising, although early in 
my career due to circumstances beyond my control my 
name was used in connection with certain products. Nor 
do I like publicity pictures taken in bathing suits or semi- 
undress. I consider both of these forms of publicity dis- 
respectful to the public's taste. And I get rabid and foamy 
over what we call gag or stunt pictures. I refuse to believe 
that they fool anybody. If an actress who doesn't know 
a putter from a pogo-stick has her picture taken swing- 
ing a golf club, the rankest amateur of the sport has every 
right to a good laugh at her expense. 

It is quite possible that I am worrying about something 
that is not particularly important, but I feel the same way 
about acting. If I am playing a scene in which I am sup- 
posed to be soaking wet, I believe in looking wet even 
if the general effect is perf ectly horrible. Or if I am beaten 
up by a gang, as I was in Marked Woman, I don't want 
to come out of it looking as if I had just been released 
from a convent. Audiences are too smart for that sort of 
thing, and it makes me a little ashamed to try to fool 
them. It all goes back, I suppose, to those puritan ances- 
tors of mine-they left me with a frightening conscience. 
Aside from the time it takes to pose for stills, we spend 
many hours with members of the press, both on and off 
the set. Many of them come from all over the world to 
mtet us. There are also a large number of writers for fan 



1 28 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

magazines who want to know our ideas on millions of 
subjects. Though I can't imagine why my ideas on any 
of these matters should be worth anything to anybody 
else, I must admit that by the time the clever writers have 
their stories ready to print, the words they put into my 
mouth impress even me. They are more than generous 
in their descriptions of us. For all this we are truly grate- 
ful, but I will never cease to feel inadequate with them 
during interviews. I am always wishing there were some 
great, dark, hidden thing in my life for me to tell them 
so that they would go away thinking, "What a fascinat- 
ing life Bette has had!" But my life for the last ten years 
has been mainly hard work. 

One of the greatest dangers of publicity is its tendency 
to be forced. Excessive amounts of unwarranted publicity 
are far more dangerous than none at all. I am often re- 
minded of a remark made to me by George Arliss very 
early in my careen It is far more important, he said, for 
young people starting in pictures to worry about the ac- 
tual value of their work in front of the camera than to 
rely on undeserved exploitation. There are countless sorry 
examples in Hollywood of newcomers overpublicized be- 
fore they ever appear before the cameras. It would be im- 
possible for them to live up to the public's expectation of 
them based on their advance notices. Almost invariably 
they die an early professional death, really through no 
fault of their own. I sincerely believe that all young players 
breaking into Hollywood should carefully guard them- 
selves against such exploitation. 

On the other hand, a well-established player, to whom 
publicity comes naturally, should not scorn any interest 
shown by the press, for this is just as essential to the length 



THE ACTRESS PLAYS HER PART 129 

of her life in pictures as the actual work she does in front 
of the camera. 

Success in any profession is an interesting subject for 
speculation. I don't believe that it is ever completely un- 
warranted. There must be reasons for it. Success in my 
profession is, of course, the most difficult to understand. 
One minute an actress may be down and out and un- 
wanted. Then something happens, and in the next minute- 
figuratively speaking the whole course of her life may 
be changed and she may find herself the idol of millions. 

There is much talk in Hollywood about the well-known 
"lucky break," but that is seldom a satisfactory explana- 
tion. The successful actress has probably spent years of 
her life working and hoping. She has had sufficient cour- 
age and self-confidence to stick to the profession she loves 
in spite of what looked like insurmountable obstacles. She 
has earned at last the right to be an important person in 
her field. No one in this world ever gets anything for 
nothing. Luck helps a lot in getting to the top, but it 
won't keep you there for long. Any actress who credits 
the fickle lady for her entire career is being either very 
modest or very apologetic about her accomplishments. 

It's hard work becoming a first-rater in the picture busi- 
ness, but once we've arrived the going seems to be subtly 
rougher. We are open to criticism and jealousy from 
friend and foe alike, and we must constantly struggle to 
maintain whatever standards of excellence we have set for 
ourselves. 

In our contracts there is an amusing clause stating that 
the producer considers our services "of a unique and ex- 
traordinary nature." Flattering, but still no key to the 
secret of success in Hollywood. 



130 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

Hard work does it, health, and the determination to let 
nothing stop you. 

If you are ambitious to be a leader in the acting pro- 
fession, make your belief in your talents strong enough 
to brook any discouragement that may come to you, work 
every inch of the way and the chances are that some 
day you may become a new star in the theatrical firma- 
ment. See if you won't! 



X 

THE ACTOR PLAYS HIS PART 

Paul Muni 



TO ACT in motion pictures is to act in a world in 
which mechanical problems beset the actor on all 
sides: his performance is governed by them, he cannot 
escape them. From the time he appears on the set, his 
steps are caged by chalk marks and focal distances, his 
voice is directed by microphones, controlled by dials, and 
his image can only be seen if he moves with care within 
the cage. 

To speak of a motion-picture performance is to speak 
of thousands of images on one strip of film, cemented to- 
gether. The actor does not himself select these images or 
juxtapose them. His work in the pattern of the picture 
may be completely changed through the assembling of 
these images, over which he has no control. His perform- 
ance is recorded, stored and placed in neatly labeled tins, 
then perhaps deleted. Finally, it is unrolled, projected, 
seen through a lens and heard through a horn before an 
audience hundreds of miles away from himself. 

Perhaps if I describe the various processes for an actor 
in making a motion picture, you will see how his work is 
only part of the complicated pattern of production. 

We begin with the script. Some actors have no choice 
in the selection of their scripts. Others are fortunate 

131 



1 32 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

enough to be able to choose their own stories and to work 
with the writer from the beginning, watching the story 
develop and helping to mold the characters they will play 
on the screen. I have been fortunate in this respect. My 
arrangement with the studio gives me a choice of four 
stories at a time, which the studio submits to me three 
months before production. I select two of these for my 
year's work, or two from a second group, if none of the 
first are satisfactory. The choice is made from a script 
which may vary from a ten-page synopsis to an elaborate 
treatment including dialogue, character analysis and sug- 
gestions for camera angles. If a synopsis is submitted, the 
studio supervisor usually discusses it with me so that we 
may nail down the writer at the earliest stage in his work, 
and tell him hopefully what we want when he is called in 
to conference. Then, taking into consideration all possible 
difference of opinion, we discuss the script as thoroughly 
as we can. 

The story goes back to the writer for an incubation 
period of six or eight weeks. Ten weeks are not considered 
too long, if the job is a special film. When the writer is 
at work, the production supervisor confers with him fre- 
quently to bring his script closer to what we think it 
should be. At the end of this period, the first rough draft 
appears. This reaches me, and I take it home, go through 
it, talk it over with my wife, and expose it to every critical 
spotlight I can find. Again the producer, writer and I con- 
fer. This time we reach a final decision on the script. 

Now the director comes into the conference. He brings 
a fresh viewpoint, a strong visual sense, practical experi- 
ence and camera training. His ideas are likely to be among 
the most valuable contributions. 

Two weeks more go by, while the writer is working 



T/J0 csmierwian focuses, and the "gaffer" or electrician adjusts the lights be- 
fore Paul Muni plays a courtroom scene from "The Life of Emile Zola." 
(Courtesy of Warner Brothers Pictures.) 



THE ACTOR PLAYS HIS PART 133 

on the changed draft, now in its second stage. During this 
time the director is assembling his cast and technical crew, 
and making final preparations before shooting. 

Meanwhile, I am studying the character I am to play 
from his background, type and manner of speaking and 
acting. First, there is the physical appearance to establish. 
If my story is biographical, I try to get photographs or 
paintings of the character. Then I read as much of the 
background material as is available: books which explain 
his life and times to me, and those materials which give 
me his mental world. For Zola, there was everything: 
photographs, his books, what his contemporaries wrote 
about him and the photostats of the court records in the 
Dreyfus case. 

In The Good Earth, the character of Wang Lung pre- 
sented a different problem. Here was no historical char- 
acter, but a type, a man who represented a whole race. 
I tried to associate some sort of composite man with the 
Wang Lung I was about to play. Quite frankly, I never 
felt that my mental picture of him was realized by my 
execution on the screen. 

It is not important to be the historical replica of a char- 
acter. It is important to make him real to your audience. 
I have never felt responsible for preciseness of gesture. In 
fact, I think that an actor should not try for this. He 
should conceive the part clearly, collaborate with the 
writer, and bring the character to life in all its meaning. 
A biographer invents incidents, if necessary, to bring out 
hidden traits which explain a character more fully. The 
actor cannot invent incidents. But by concentration, voice 
and gesture, he re-creates a man. 

Before the character is set on his feet, make-up tests 
must sometimes be made. The head of the make-up de- 



134 W E MAKE THE MOVIES 

partment knows what physical details are required from 
his copy of the script. I then describe to him the charac- 
ter as I see him. During the preparation of Zola, I de- 
scribed Emile Zola in his youth for the opening sequences 
as a young, naive crusading writer, living the life of a 
bohemian in the Latin Quarter, and expressing that life 
in his face and body. At this point, the research depart- 
ment aided me with photographs. 

When the make-up department and I agree on points 
of likeness, we begin the tests. In Zola there were five 
age-transitions to be made. We started with the last and 
most difficult step, the old Zola of the Dreyfus period, 
with his high intellectual forehead, his gray beard, his 
heavy cheeks, because that make-up would take the long- 
est to work out. For each age transition, the artist of the 
make-up department paints or draws over the actor's 
photograph the additional facial characteristics necessary 
for him to resemble the character. Using this method, one 
may see at a glance just what changes must be made on 
the actor's face. It was necessary to heighten my fore- 
head with make-up, to lift the hairline and make it seem 
my natural one. This took six hours to effect, at first, 
but the time was gradually reduced to an hour and a half, 
as we became more accustomed to it. 

Then, still photographs are taken of the make-up. Our 
mistakes can be seen in views of the back, side and front 
of the head. We go over, the make-up until we have cor- 
rected the slightest error. Then, when we feel we are 
ready, motion-picture tests are made under the harshest 
lights (no gauzes may be used for diffusion here), and 
before the sharpest lenses. The motion-picture camera will 
pick up flaws which the eye will miss altogether. It can 
also see all sides of the actor's make-up in motion, which 



THE ACTOR PLAYS HIS PART 135 

are not apparent from the stills. Again, we correct our 
mistakes until the make-up is good under ever)* possible 
lighting condition. 

Costumes must now be planned and fitted by the ward- 
robe department. Costume plates have been given to the 
head designer by the research department, from which the 
designer has made sketches. In a historical production, 
male actors are provided with costumes. In a modern pic- 
ture, they supply their own clothes. 

In my preparation for acting a part, I would like to 
write a set of rules by which the technical mastery of act- 
ing may be accomplished. But I have not found any such 
rules. If I knew any which held, I should be glad to fol- 
low them. Even if an actor has acquired a set of elementals 
in dramatic training, it is not enough for him to use them 
for the entire framework of his acting, and to penetrate 
no further. He is far from an accomplished actor after he 
has received these fundamental theories and become expert 
in them. He may be apt, with a pleasing voice, a natural 
gift for oratory, a quick mind and a graceful figure. Per- 
haps he has acquired all the theoretical foundations of act- 
ing. Perhaps he has put these into practice and found them 
profitable. Yet, without a great emotional capacity and a 
great heart, and without being the perennial student which 
any creative person must be, he cannot reach the depths 
of any role, because he only uses the fundamentals he has 
learned. He may think- he is a finished actor, but he is 
really only an expert trickster. 

For me, acting is a constant study. Each new role brings 
problems which I must solve empirically. Others may be 
privileged to meet them in acting schools or under the 
guidance of coaches. But I have had to work them out in 
experience, each time I play a part, or indeed each time 



136 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

I play a scene. There is no textbook, no school of acting 
I can recommend. I believe that an actor can really place 
himself in a part, relying on instinct and experience to 
guide him, without depending on academic formulas. 

However, in learning dialogue I do have a pattern 
which is the reverse of what I have said about the feeling 
for a part. This method has been most helpful to me. I have 
found it best to parrot my lines, to memorize them directly, 
so that I can speak them without analysis or thought for 
their meaning. Often I will read a speech over and over, 
at home, until the phrases come to me automatically and 
rhythmically. 

While parroting my lines, some of the thought behind 
them is bound to penetrate subconsciously, so that my 
interpretation is partially set, but not so rigidly that I can- 
not change it. Once the lines come to me automatically, 
I discard them completely and think of the thoughts they 
express. Often I substitute other words until I am con- 
fident that the lines are mine and that I need no longer 
think of them. 

Sometimes I change the shadings of the words because 
they have assumed a new significance. Now they begin 
to live. During this process I often note, in the margin of 
the script, associations and parallel feelings which have 
come to me while I was learning my lines. For example, 
in Zola's speech to the jury, which lasted six and a half 
minutes, I wrote a page of notes, which completely 
changed my original emphasis. When I first repeated the 
speech to myself, I spoke it loudly and emphatically. 
Then, I thought of the meaning of the words, "Men of 
France, I know you, I know the life you have led." The 
more vital the speech became to me and the more strongly 
I began to feel it, the more quietly I now felt it should 



THE ACTOR PLAYS HIS PART 137 

be spoken. Thus my associations helped me to determine 
the cadences of my lines. 

When I reach a scene which has never even remotely 



touched my life, I use the associative method or substi- 
tution, thinking of situations which may have nothing in 
common with the one I am to play, but which, for me, 
will evoke the mood and feeling of my scene. Gradually 
it becomes clear to me. The words no longer matter; it is 
the thought which predominates. Concentration on mean- 
ing will make an actor change lines sometimes, but it will 
keep fresh in him the underlying motives of the scene. 

When situations arise of which I ani patently ignorant, 
I take them to people whose judgment I can trust: I con- 
fer with the director, get his suggestions and criticisms; 
I go over them with my wife, who works with me con- 
stantly, both at home and while shooting. 

I like to do my preparatory work at home with a re- 
cording machine, so that I can play back my lines and 
listen to them critically for changes. I do not record until 
I have reread my part at least a hundred times. This gives 
me the effect of my thought, enunciation and intonation. 
The recording machine helps me to polish these, but the 
only medium for creating a part is the mind. Working this 
way I do one or two sequences, sometimes less, a day. 

After all the preparations are completed, the first day 
of shooting arrives. The director goes to work and we 
learn his methods. When the actors first come on the set, 
they read through their lines once or twice and become 
accustomed to each other's method of acting. This first 
rehearsal generally takes pkce without lights. After about 
half an hour or an hour, the actors leave the set, going 
either to their dressing-rooms to rest and study their lines, 
or to smoke. An interval of an hour or an hour and a 



138 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

half passes while the cameras and lights are adjusted, and 
all rehearsals are at a standstill. Then, when the actors 
return, they read their lines perhaps once or twice again, 
and the director calls for a take. The scene is shot from 
many angles, to include enough variety for the final edit- 
ing of the picture. This takes more time; there are long 
waits. 

On the stage, you have a strong sense of security. You 
are sure of your four weeks' rehearsals, with the entire 
cast, from the beginning to the end of the play. You can 
work gradually into the part, knowing the timing and 
the rhythm, letting the process become subconscious, and 
later you may color and change and add to the charac- 
terization. But in acting for the screen you do not 
have the same sense of security. Your sets change, your 
scenes are juggled according to available floor space, not 
according to the continuity of the script, and once a satis- 
factory take is made, the scene is finished. There is no 
possibility now of molding character through the infinite 
repetition of one scene. 

The uncertainty continues. Often a script is revised 
during shooting, and must be learned from day to day. 
Sometimes the writing is so close behind the shooting that 
your lines are chalked for you on a blackboard out of 
range of the cameras, to be read as the scenes are shot. 
Or you may be slated to do an exterior scene on Monday, 
and on Monday the sun is not out. 

Since the scenes are rarely taken in the order of the 
script, the actor must make the additional effort of men- 
tally co-ordinating his lines before the camera. He must 
be ready to reorient to the state of the scene preceding 
the one now being shot, and absorb its effect so that his 
work will show the proper emotional development. On 



THE ACTOR PLAYS HIS PART 139 

the stage, he can build mentally scene by scene, and in a 
logical series. But a screen actor must do without any of 
this. In Zola I started work one day on a scene in which 
I was to shut the door on a crowd behind me and face 
my wife. According to the script, this scene followed one 
in which I had been chased through the streets by an 
angry mob and had reached home and safety just in rime, 
completely exhausted. Since the mob scene had been shot 
at an earlier date, I had to imagine the state of mind of a 
man pursued. In reality I was alone on the set. I had to 
imagine the mob from which I was escaping. 

In working with other actors, I must visualize in the 
same way I do when creating a part for myself. For act- 
ing is mainly reacting to someone else. And you can only 
react if you mentally re-create a person who has qualities 
to which you are sympathetic. For example, if you are 
called upon to play a scene with an actor whom you must 
hate in a scene, and whom you really like, you must visual- 
ize the kind of person you really hate, so that your reaction 
will be true. It is this response of an actor which an audi- 
ence senses, and which it feels is either true or false. 

The extent of response of audiences depends on the 
degree to which they identify themselves with the charac- 
ter the actor is projecting. If the identification is complete, 
so that his joys and sufferings become theirs, then only 
can his acting reach them; then only can it be truly suc- 
cessful. 

It has been said over and over again that actors are 
exhibitionists, that by acting they are merely demonstrat- 
ing feats of temperament, but I think that a good actor is 
actually a creator, and that the character he creates through 
his physical self is another person, totally unrelated to his 
own personality. Personally, I prefer parts that are unlike 



140 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

myself, and not those exhibitionistic parts that are given 
to many Hollywood stars, who act as themselves on the 
screen. 

Because of the star system, it is easy for an actor to 
fall into a series of identical parts, and these are identical 
because the actor does not create another person, but only 
exhibits himself. There are few who have not fallen into 
this worst of actors' habits. But the system is not snatched 
out of thin air. It developed because the average movie fan 
goes to admire the stars, not to see them act The strong- 
est compulsion in the motion-picture industry has been the 
glorification of the stars, and the elaborate work of the 
publicity departments has been centered on such an ap- 
peal. Most audiences are interested in the direct projection 
of a glamorous personality rather than in the creation of 
a role through that personality. The industry for years 
has kept actors who cannot act, not out of charity, but 
because they have wide public appeal. Here the emphasis 
rests on a standard of physical beauty and charm which 
is the ideal of Trillions of people, and emanates from Holly- 
wood. 

If the public likes an actor in a certain type of part, the 
producer and the actor himself may be afraid to break 
the pattern, because audiences might not like it. Few 
actors have the desire or opportunity to take this decisive 
step. When they do, as Robert Montgomery did when 
he played the role of a psychopathic killer in Night Must 
Fatty after years of playboy parts, the step is recognized 
as a courageous one. And his example must be followed 
by other stars. 

For my part, I refuse to play duplicate roles. I have 
frequently turned down good parts because they were too 
close to work I had already done. A creative actor must 



THE ACTOR PLAYS HIS PART 141 

master as many kinds of parts as he can find, to increase 
his range and to prevent being typed. 

The recent emphasis on biographical stories has opened 
a new field for the actor. Within the limits of history, the 
actor has much opportunity to interpret the character. His 
life has set its mark on history, his actions have been re- 
corded. We are sure of his humanity, because he has lived. 
A character in the mind of an author sometimes keeps its 
remoteness; it may never come to life. The interpretation 
of a fictitious character may change tremendously between 
the hands of its actor and author, and an entirely different 
conception may result. A biographical role, on the other 
hand, is a complete person. 

In the characters I have played on the screen, I have 
tried, without being didactic, to say something interesting 
to audiences, something significant about our times. Both 
Louis Pasteur and Emile Zola appealed directly and force- 
fully to their audiences. Each was potent in his time; 
Pasteur effectively opposed the bigotry of medicine as it 
was practiced in his century, and broadened the field of 
experimental science. Zola spent his life championing the 
oppressed through his writing; he persevered in a tireless 
search for the truth. Both of these men were willing to 
risk themselves for their work; they needed, above all, to 
function in society. 

I believe the application of such lives is clear. I hope 
that what I have said will point to this belief of mine: 
that whatever knowledge of behavior, of technique, or 
processes we may have, we must go beyond in motion 
pictures. We must be able to give artistic and emotional 
assistance to audiences. Pictures must devote themselves to 
more than story or personality. They must present themes 
which will reach the audience. The actor who can pre- 



142 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

sent these themes through himself will make a vital and 
identifying contact with his audience. By re-creating the 
lives of characters which have been potent social forces 
in their own time, perhaps the actor can reach people and 
influence them so that they will go forth with a new 
strength and a new vision in combating the evils of our 
own society. 



XI 

SHOOTING THE MOVIES 
John Arnold, A.S.C. 



THE REAL goal of all the manifold activities which 
compose a production is to secure perhaps one hun- 
dred and fifty thousand tiny photographs on a few miles 
of celluloid ribbon. 

It is quite true that a motion picture originates in a 
series of mental pictures in the minds of producer, writers, 
director, and so on. But it is equally true that these purely 
mental images cannot go out and entertain audiences or 
win enough of the public's quarters and half-dollars to 
ring up a profit on the company's cash register. To do 
this, those mental pictures must be translated into visible, 
tangible form. 

That, in a nutshell, is what makes the cinematographer's 
work more truthfully a calling than a job. The cinema- 
tographer, of course, is the man responsible for getting 
those one hundred and fifty thousand little snapshots on 
those two miles of celluloid. In the old days, he used to 
answer to the name of cameraman; of late, he is more and 
more frequently called the director of photography. No 
matter what you call him, he has a uniquely intricate job. 

First of all, there is the matter of making mechanically 
good pictures of the physical settings and action before his 
lens. In spite of the intricate complications introduced by 

143 



144 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

the high technical standards of modern photography and 
by the pictorial technique of telling stories, technical pro- 
ficiency is perhaps the easiest of the cinematographer's 
tasks. 

You see, there are those troublesome mental images to 
contend with. Also, unless they are conveyed to the audi- 
ence, your production is going to be just about as dra- 
matic as the stereograph pictures of the World's Fair 
which Aunt Nellie used to keep on the whatnot. The 
cinematographer must bring to the screen not only the 
concrete action and appearance of the scene, but also its 
dramatic and emotional mood. 

Psychologists have said and written much of the way 
the cinema makes its audiences vicarious participants in 
the emotional reactions of its characters. In general, they 
have pointed out, this effect of participation is far more 
noticeable on the screen than on the stage: in one case, 
the spectator is looking at a scene; in the other, he feels 
himself taking part in it. While some of this must un- 
questionably be attributed to the artistry of writers, direc- 
tors and players, and to the intimacy of the close-up 
camera, it cannot by any means be laid wholly to these 
causes. 

The principal cause, I believe, is the fact that the 
camera can and does transmit the mental imagery of these 
artists to the audience. If the import of a scene is cheerful, 
the camera can make the spectator feel cheerful even be- 
fore an actor appears or a word is spoken. If the mood of 
the scene is sad, tragic or melodramatic, the camera can 
evoke these responses as well. It is entirely possible to 
make two takes of the same action and dialogue, played 
against the same setting by the same players, and by skill- 



SHOOTING THE MOVIES 145 

ful camerawork make the two takes have tvro very dif- 
ferent dramatic meanings. 

Consider a very simple scene: a bedroom in which a 
sick child lies, while its mother keeps constant vigil. If 
this scene is presented in somber tones with long, men- 
acing shadows on the screen, you feel at once that the 
child is gravely ill, and may never recover. If, on the 
other hand, the room is in lighter tones, with sunlight 
streaming through the windows and a cheerful sparkle 
evident everywhere, instinct tells you the crisis has passed, 
and the child is on the road to recovery. 

The instrument used to evoke these responses is light. 
It is the cinematographer's most important tool. Not only 
does light make his picture in the literal sense, but it can 
make or mar the appearance of sets and players, and cre- 
ate any desired emotional response in the audience. 

To understand why and how light works for the cine- 
matographer, let's go back for a minute to the very ele- 
mentary principles of photography and cinematography. 

First of all, we see things because they reflect light to 
our eyes. If we turn off the light, the object is still there 
but we can no longer see it. If the light falls on only one 
part of the object, we will see light reflecting the illumi- 
nated part, and not the part that is not illuminated and 
reflects no light to us. 

Long ago it was found that certain compounds of silver 
especially silver bromide and silver chloride are sensi- 
tive to light. If exposed to light, they change from their 
normal cream color to a dark gray or black, according to 
the amount of light reaching them. What actually hap- 
pens is that the silver salt is changed to black metallic sil- 
ver. There are several chemicals, known as developing 
agents, which have the property of accelerating this action, 



WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

so that after an exposure so short that no darkening action 
is visible to the eye, the affected silver salts can be dark- 
ened by the developing agent as effectively as though a 
long exposure had been given. 

If the light falling on such a sensitive surface is focused 
through a lens which forms an image of a scene or object, 
that image will be reproduced as a pattern of variously 
darkened silver: where the most light fell, the silver will 
be darkened most; where less light fell, the silver will be 
less affected; and where none fell, there will be no dark- 
ening whatever. Obviously, not all of the light-sensitive 
silver would be used up in this case, and if we imme- 
diately took our developed picture out into the light it 
would fade as the previously unexposed silver darkened. 
So we treat the picture with chemicals which dissolve out 
the undeveloped silver salts, but have no action on the 
developed metallic silver. 

This gives us a negative, in which black is white and 
white is black. If we repeat the process, making the ex- 
posing light pass through this negative, the situation will 
naturally be reversed and our developed picture will be 
a positive, showing white as white and black as black. 

Photographers have been doing this with still pictures 
for considerably over a century, steadily improving the 
details of the process as time inarched on. The ideal has 
always been a photographic picture which could accu- 
rately reproduce not only form but movement. 

Men have known how to re-create movement even 
longer than they've known how to draw pictures with 
light and lenses. The ancient Egyptians knew that if you 
drew a picture of a moving object at any one point in its 
movement, another at a point slightly more advanced, and 
so on, and viewed these images in quick succession, they 



SHOOTING THE MOVIES 147 

would blend together and give an illusion that the pic- 
tured object moved. 

But how to do this with photography has been a puzzle. 
The early photographers coated their light-sensitive emul- 
sions on bulky metal plates, and later on equally bulky, 
fragile plates of glass. Neither would do for making mo- 
tion pictures, where the innumerable movement-arresting 
individual pictures had to be made and changed at in- 
credibly short intervals not less than sixteen pictures every 
second, and preferably more. 

In 1888, however, came the epoch-making invention of 
photographic film light, flexible celluloid coated with the 
necessary light-sensitive emulsion. From then on, the in- 
vention of successful moving pictures was assured. Ac- 
tually, so many workers reached the goal in quick succes- 
sion that even today we can't be absolutely certain who 
was the first, though It is generally conceded that Edison 
in America and Lumiere in France produced the first 
movies almost simultaneously. 

And here the long arm of coincidence gave the new- 
born movie a powerful boost on its path to becoming a 
world-wide institution: working independently of each 
other, Edison and Lumiere adopted virtually the same 
physical dimensions for their film and pictures. And as 
these two individuals established firms which for many 
years dominated motion-picture production and distribu- 
tion, their fortuitously similar standards became accepted 
as the world's standard dimensions for motion-picture film 
and equipment. Due to this standardization, today a pro- 
fessional motion picture made anywhere in the world can 
be run on professional projection equipment in any other 
land as perfectly as though it were made there. 

These dimensions call for a film 35 millimeters, or 1.378 



148 ^E MAKE THE MOVIES 

inches wide.* Along each edge of the film is a row of 
little rectangular holes or perforations, by means of which 
the film is moved through camera and projector. These 
perforations, which are spaced .187 of an inch apart, must 
be extremely accurate, for upon the accuracy of the per- 
forations depends the steadiness of the picture on the the- 
ater's screen. Each tiny picture or p\wie measures .868 
of an inch wide by .631 of an inch high or approximately 
the size of an ordinary postage-stamp! When this picture 
is projected to fill a forty-foot screen such as is common 
in our larger theaters, the picture every minutest detail of 
it is magnified more than 581 diameters; a detail of the 
image which on the film is only five one-thousandths of an 
inch in size too small to be seen without a microscope- 
will be nearly three inches high on the screen! 

There are sixteen of these tiny frames on each foot of 
film. If you are one of those mathematically-inclined people 
who cannot read figures like this without whipping out a 
pencil and figuring things out, you will already have no- 
ticed that these dimensions, even allowing for a generous 
margin outside each row of perforations, seem to leave a 
lot of the film's area which is not usefully accounted for. 
Well, on the left-hand side of the film, between the per- 
forations and the frame, is a strip .084 of an inch wide 
called the sound track, on which sound is recorded. But 
even allowing for the sound-track area, which pretty well 
accounts for all our usable space laterally, we still seem 
to have only about ten inches of picture on twelve inches 
of film. This might be called the cinema's sacrifice on the 
altar of art. Before sound came to requisition that tenth- 
of-an-inch strip along our film, the picture-area or frame 

* There are three smaller-sized standards for amateur and home-movie 
film: 16 mm. wide, 8 mm. and in Europe, 9.5 mm. wide. 



SHOOTING THE MOVIES 149 

filled all the space between the perforations save for a 
marginal spacing of about %a of an inch on each side and 
between frames. This gave a picture-proportion of 3 x 4, 
which is aesthetically the most pleasing proportion pos- 
sible for ail-around use. The sound track arbitrarilv 
cropped this down to a square, which is disturbing if you 
have to concentrate long upon it. Accordingly, the present 
reduced-aperture frame became standardized, to restore 
the more pleasing format. That this desirable proportion 
was originally chosen seems another fortunate coincidence, 
for the early inventors were too busy trying to solve 
mechanical problems to give any thought to the artistic 
future of their invention. 

From the time when celluloid film first made movies 
possible, down to the present day, the history of cinema- 
tography has been closely bound up with detail advances 
in film. Emulsions have steadily grown fastermore and 
more sensitive to light, so that not only is less light needed 
to make an exposure, but increasingly delicate gradations 
in lighting may be photographed. 

The early films were color-blind sensitive only to blue 
and ultra-violet light; steadily film has become sensitive to 
more and more of the spectrum. About ten years ago 
panchromatic film which, as its name implies, is sensitive 
to all colors, was introduced, and revolutionized cinema- 
tography. Today's super-panchromatic films see colors in 
very much the same relative strengths as our eyes, while 
yet rendering them in terms of black and white. And one 
new film, sensitive to the invisible infra-red, permits us to 
make convincing night-effect scenes in the daytime and 
to secure clear photographs of distant landscapes hidden 
in haze. 

Lenses have advanced apace, growing more and more 



WE MAKE THE MOVIES 



accurate in their delineation of scenes, and faster, or capa- 
ble of letting in more and yet more light. A high-grade 
modern lens will actually reveal more detail in a picture 
than would be perceived by the human eye looking at the 
same scene* 

Cameras have evolved no less remarkably. The early 
ones made pictures, but that was about all you could say 
for them. To take just one example, they did not move 
the film very accurately; and if the film does not come to 
rest in identically the same relative position as each frame 
is photographed, the picture on the screen will jiggle. 
Today, cameras are instruments of such high precision that 
not only is this unsteadiness wholly a thing of the past, 
but for trick shots the same film may be run through the 
camera a score of times -without varying a thousandth part 
of an inch in the registration of any frame during any of 
the twenty exposures. Laymen are often amazed when I 
tell them a modern studio camera costs anywhere from 
five to fifteen thousand dollars; in reality, the amazing 
thing is that an instrument of such incredible precision can 
cost so little. 

From the start, the cameraman has used light to make his 
picture. How he uses it has changed fully as much as any- 
thing else. In the early days, illumination was all that was 
required, whether it was supplied by the sun or by arti- 
ficial sources. Today, mere illumination is secondary to 
flgfowzg-painting the picture with light-beams to create 
an illusion of depth and roundness in a picture which is 
really flat and seen on a flat screen. To accomplish this, 
lighting equipment has changed from crude floodlighting 
units, which simply threw out a flood of illumination, to 
precision-lighting tools which project a beam which can 



SHOOTIXG THE MOVIES 151 

be controlled in spread, intensity and quality with great 
precision. 

Almost the sole survivor of the early-day floodlighting 
units is the broadside, commonly called the broad. It is 
a relatively simple lamp which houses two r,ooo-watt 
globes side by side in a box-shaped reflector which spreads 
their light out in an even flood over an angle of approxi- 
mately 60. 

The broad has been supplemented and in some cases 
replaced by the rifle, which uses one 1,000- or i,50o-watt 
globe in a deep, bowl-shaped chromium-plated reflector. 
This reflector has a spiral corrugation much like the rifling 
of a gun-barrel; hence the name of the unit. 

The really fundamental lighting tool, however, is the 
spotlight, which instead of casting a flood of light projects 
a round beam whose spread may be varied from a very 
narrow spot say a spread of 8 to a wider and con- 
sequently less intense beam of as much as 45 divergence. 
There are two basic types of spots: the older lens-spots, 
which form their beam by means of a lens, and reflecting 
spots, which produce the beam by using a parabolic mir- 
ror. Most recently of all, a new type spotlight which 
somewhat combines these features, using a bull's-eye 
lighthouse-type lens in combination with a small spherical 
mirror to produce a smoother and more accurately con- 
trolled beam than either of the older types, has been intro- 
duced. These latter lamps are called solar spots, and nick- 
named Juniors and Seniors according to whether they take 
a 2,ooo-watt or a 5,ooo-watt globe. The older spotlights 
have a wide variety of names and nicknames: the reflect- 
ing spots are generally called, according to the size of 
their mirrors, eighteen*, twenty-fours and thirty-sixes; they 
use, respectively, z,ooo-watt, 5,ooo-watt and io,ooo-watt 



WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

globes. The t\vo latter, incidentally, are sometimes called 
5 K-W and w K-W lamps since their wattage is respec- 
tively five and ten kilowatts. The lens-type spotlights range 
from baby spots of 500 watts up to 1,000 and 2,ooo-watt 
units. These have a great variety of nicknames, including 
bon-bons. 

There are a number of special-purpose lamps, among 
which may be mentioned the Lupe, which is a long, fun- 
nel-shaped lamp holding a i,ooo-watt tubular globe, and 
mounted on a peculiar, double-jointed standard which perr 
mits it to be used in almost any position; the sky pan is 
simply a flat, bowl-shaped reflector used for throwing a 
flood of light on painted sky backings or backdrops; and 
the various obsolescent banks and strips which are simply 
big floodlights holding four, six or more globes. 

For natural-color cinematography these standard in- 
candescent lamps are duplicated in modern, noiseless arc- 
lighting units which produce light virtually identical with 
the color of natural daylight. In the arcs, the lens-type 
spotlights are called rotaries, because one of the carbons 
rotates; the mirror-spotlights bear the familiar name sun- 
arcs; and the newer bull's-eye lensed spots, since they are 
high-intensity arcs, are called Hi-arcs. 

There are many accessories used for controlling the light 
from these various lamps. For instance, there are the differ- 
ent diffusing screens used to soften the rays from any one 
lamp: these may be made of silk, gelatin, oiled cellulose, 
celloglass, frosted glass or lenticular glass strips; they are 
called silks, jellies, oils, cellos, frosts, Florentines, and so 
on. Other devices are used to screen the rays of lamps 
from the camera; flat or adjustable screens are called nig- 
gers and gobos; conical hoods that concentrate the rays 
are often called snouts; similar ones with adjustable, flat 



SHOOTING THE MOVIES 153 

flaps are called barn-doors. These various slang terms for 
the various lighting units save a lot of time and confusion 
on the set, but to the uninitiated they seem strange, as they 
did to an alarmed stage star some years ago hearing a 
cameraman who wanted his electricians to turn out a 
broadside and to turn an Ashcraft spotlight on the lady, 
say, "Kill the broad, hit her with the ash-can and tie *er 
off!" 

Similarly, too, the cameraman has learned how to con- 
trol natural light when working out-of-doors. Reflectors, 
big squares of plywood covered with tin, aluminum or 
gold paint, throw illumination into shadows; artificial lights 
often serve the purpose of reflectors (and much more effi- 
ciently), and are called booster lights; canopies of muslin 
or netting, called scrims, are stretched over the players* 
heads to soften or eliminate direct sunlight. Even on the 
African veldt, the modern cinematographer can control 
light as precisely as he does on the studio stage. 

Outdoors, too, another important accessory is often 
used. This is the color filter. It is simply a little piece of 
colored glass or gelatin which is placed over the lens or, 
in the latter case, directly in front of the film. Its purpose 
is to make the film see things as the cinematographer wants 
them seen. I have mentioned that modern films see colors 
in almost the same relative brightnesses our eyes do; filter- 
ing properly done can change that "almost" to "exactly." 
Filters can also exaggerate overcorrect is the technical 
term any desired color. Of course the result is still a 
black and white picture: but the desired color may be 
rendered lighter or darker as may be needed. This matter 
of filtering is too involved to discuss at length, but in gen- 
eral, if you use a filter of the same color as the one you 
want to change, you lighten that color; if you want to 



154 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

darken that color, you use a filter of a complementary 
color. For exiirnple, in viewing a landscape we are aided 
by the color contrast which makes the white clouds stand 
cut pleasingly against the blue sky; in a picture, the sky 
might ordinarily be rendered too light a gray to give con- 
trast to the clouds: so we use a yellow, orange or red 
filter which darkens the sky to whatever degree we may 
desire even to turning it a midnight black for a night- 
effect shot. 

Still another vital cinematographic tool is the diffusing 
screen. As has been mentioned, modern lenses can repro- 
duce objects with such microscopically accurate detail that 
our picture will reveal things which the eye would not 
see in reality, and which we may not wish to have so 
brutally revealed. Therefore the cinematographer almost 
always fits a device over his lens to break up the image- 
forming light-rays very slightly. This produces a more 
naturally soft picture. Many types of diffusers are used, 
according to the need of the scene: nets of fine gauze, 
screens of imperceptibly "frosted" gelatin, and glass discs 
with a spiderwork tracery of fine lines or concentric circles. 
Many scenes are filmed with so little diffusion that they 
appear as though none at all was used; some require so 
much that the picture on the screen is obviously "fuzzy." 

But how does the cinematographer put all of these de- 
tails to practical use? Let's trace the cinematographer's 
part in making a modern production, and see for ourselves. 

In the beginning, the producer and the studio's execu- 
tive director of photography must choose a cinematogra- 
pher to direct the photography of their picture. This in- 
volves quite as many considerations as casting, choosing a 
director, or any of the other major production problems. 
We always try to begin by selecting a cinematographer 



SHOOTING THE MOVIES 155 

whose artistic style and technical talents are most perfectly 
suited to the type of stoiy we are filmng. Most really 
good cinematographers are versatile but what's the use of 
assigning a man specially skillful in making women glam- 
orous to film an outdoor epic with a rough-and-ready 
male star? Or why take a man whose forte is realistic or 
melodramatic camera treatment and assign him to a roman- 
tic comedy? 

Naturally, cameraman and director must work in close 
co-operation, combining their respective personalities. Dis- 
similarity of temperament is desirable. A nervous cinema- 
tographer paired with a director equally nervous, afreets 
the set very like spontaneous combustion. A deliberate, 
slow cinematographer and a slow-paced director may 
produce beautiful pictures, but no business office would 
approve the combination. Hare and tortoise in conjunc- 
tion insure success. Best of all is the combination of a 
cinematographer and director who have previously worked 
together and established a mutual professional respect and 
personal friendship. From the pioneer days of director 
D. W. Griffith and cinematographer Billy Bitzer down to 
the present, there have been many such director-camera- 
man teams, and they have produced most of our best 
pictures. The camera half of one such partnership re- 
cently turned down half a dozen more lucrative foreign 
offers and made the six-thousand-mile trip from London 
to Hollywood just to be on hand when his director co- 
partner started a picture. The result won the lion's share 
of that year's Academy awards. 

Every bit as important is the relationship between cin- 
ematographer and star. In photographing any of our film 
stars, the cinematographer has two tasks. First, of course, 
he must make her appear as lovely as possible. Then, he 



156 "WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

must show her personality as well. All this requires not 
merely photographic and artistic skill, but a subde under- 
standing of that star and her reactions. One cinematog- 
rapher may score a tremendous success in photographing 
a certain personality while another, equally well equipped, 
may fail completely. One of our greatest stage stars, after 
a series of disappointing pictures elsewhere, came to our 
studio. When her picture was completed, she told me, "I 
can't thank you enough for assigning so-and-so to photo- 
graph me. Every other cinematographer constantly warns 
me against showing unfavorable angles to the camera. But 
this chap simply said, fc You tend to your acting. Fll photo- 
graph the picture and keep you looking swell no matter 
what you do!' He gave me such confidence that I turned 
in my best performance to date." Yet this cinematographer 
has had his failures with other players, while the camera- 
men this star condemned have succeeded brilliantly with 
them. No wonder many of our greatest box-office beau- 
ties insist on being filmed only by certain cinematog- 
raphers. In some instances, stars have this provision as part 
of their contracts and I've known them to fight more 
strenuously over this than over such factors as script, 
leading men or directors! 

But let's say we've selected a cinematographer whose 
bent suits the story, whose methods suit the director, whose 
talents suit the star, and whose salary suits our budget. 
The next and always pressing question is, is he available? 
Or rather, will he be available when our picture is ready 
to roll? While there are always more cinematographers 
than jobs, there are all too few great cinematographers 
such as we would want for a picture of the caliber of The 
Good Earth or Pasteur. As a result, major studios always 
try to keep a group of the leading directors of photog- 



SHOOTING THE MOVIES 157 

raphy under long-term contract. Even so, it is sometimes 
necessary to rearrange schedules or assignments, or even 
to "borrow" an ace cinernatographer from another studio. 
However, let's say we have successfully negotiated this 
hurdle. Our director of photography has been selected and 
signed. Now he must have his crew. The crew usually 
consists of an operative cinematographer, one or two assist- 
ant cameramen, a still man, and the gaffer. Almost alwavs 

*-- V 

they will be men who work regularly together. 

The director of photography is really what the name 
implies. He rarely touches the camera other than to view 
his set-up on the ground-glass focusing screen. His real 
work is to direct the photography of the sceneleaving 
the mechanics of camera-operation to the crew. 

The operative cinematographer is the man who actually 
runs the camera. He is the cinematographer's right-hand 
man. He it is who, in intricate moving-camera shots, sits 
with his eye glued to the finder, his hands swinging the 
camera to follow the moving action. He is responsible for 
the mechanical perfection of the scenes. 

The assistants have a much more important job than 
their titles might indicate. They take care of the equip- 
ment: they bring the camera to the stage, load and unload 
it, check it frequently to be sure it is operating perfectly, 
measure the distance from lens to the main point of interest 
in each scene and set the focus accordingly, operate the 
fottow-focus control in moving-camera shots, which is an 
electrical device for changing the focus when the camera 
moves toward an object, make out camera and laboratory 
reports and tend to a score of other important details. 

The still man is the still photographer whose business it 
is to make the hundreds of still photographs a modern pro- 
duction requires for theater lobby display, magazine and 



158 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

newspaper publicity, and for reference and research in 
half-a-dozen snidio departments. 

The gaffer is the chief electrician. \Miile he is not, prop- 
erly speaking, a member of the camera department, he is 
actually the cinematographer's chief of staff in the matter 
of lighting. A good gaffer, who has worked sufficiently 
with a cinematographer to become familiar with his meth- 
ods, can be an invaluable aid to the director of photog- 
raphy. While the company is finishing on one set, for in- 
stance, he can rough in the lighting on the next, so that 
when the cinematographer is ready to shoot that set he 
need spend but a minimum of time adjusting the lights to 
gain the exact effect he wants. The gaffer's assistant, by the 
way, answers to the amusing title of best boy! 

Exactly when the director of photography enters into 
active participation in the preparation of a picture varies 
enormously according to individual circumstances. Some- 
times he may be tied up on another production until almost 
the last minute; at other times, he may be able to take an 
early and active part in making preparations for shooting. 
In the former case, much of his preliminary work must 
necessarily be performed by the studio's executive director 
of photography or by such of the studio's contract cinema- 
tographers as may be available. 

Before any production starts, there are days and weeks 
of tests and conferences: tests of actors and prospective 
actors; tests of make-up and costumes for those finally cast; 
conferences with art directors and costumers to insure that 
sets and costumes are right both in themselves and for the 
camera, and that they will also make a satisfactory combi- 
nation when jointly photographed. There are conferences 
with the director and writers over the photographic pres- 
entation of dramatic points. The cinematographer's advice 



SHOOTING THE MOVIES 159 

is vital in determining \vhich points can be successfully 
conveyed: whether a sequence can be filmed more easily, 
effectively or economically by using one or another of the 
cinematic short-cuts an experienced cinematographer has 
salted away in his memory, or whether some other action 
can be filmed at all. 

Then there are often atmospheric scenes to be shot be- 
fore *the production itself is started. The cinematographer 
or his deputies must often travel halfway around the globe 
to get these shots with which to make the production au- 
thentic. Within the space of a relatively few months, cine- 
matographers from my studio have gone on such assign- 
ments to Europe, Africa, South America, the South Seas, 
China, Indo-China and Alaska, as well as most parts of 
America. 

Locations for outdoor scenes which cannot be filmed on 
the studio lot must be selected. Here, too, the cinematog- 
rapher's active aid is vital. Often he and the art director or 
unit manager will drive or fly great distances scouting loca- 
tions. Sometimes they bring back reports of several possible 
locations, making the decision in conferences with the di- 
rector. At times they or even sometimes the cinematog- 
rapher alone make the final choice independently. 

When the production itself is under way, the cinema- 
tographer's duty is primarily that of directing the photo- 
graphic phases of the production. In collaboration with the 
director, he will have planned the most effective camera 
positions and camera angles for filming the scene in hand. 
While his assistants place the camera in the desired position, 
he attends to the lighting of the scene, directing the elec- 
tricians to turn on this lamp, to swing that one about so, to 
concentrate this beam a bit more, to flood out that one, and 
so on until setting and players are perfectly lit. 



1 60 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

The fact that a movie is a picture in motion rather than 
a static composition gives rise to very considerable prob- 
lems in lighting, A player may be lit very satisfactorily in 
one position: but let him move slightly away from that po- 
sitiontaking a single step, or even turning his head and 
the lights, which a moment ago made him look handsome, 
may not reach him, or may even cast strong highlights or 
shadows which accentuate undesirable features. 

The action must therefore be rehearsed for the camera 
with the players' positions carefully charted, so that in the 
actual take they will know where to stand, where to stop, 
and so on. 

No hard-and-fast rules can be laid down to govern light- 
ing, for each scene makes its individual demands. Each 
cinematographer, moreover, has his own methods, just as a 
Rembrandt, a Greuze, or a Picasso has his individualized 
technique. 

There are, however, certain fundamental principles 
which apply universally. 

The tone or key of the lighting must be closely attuned 
to the dramatic mood of the scene. In lighting a tragedy, 
for instance, we w^ould as a rule strive for somber effects, 
with heavy, foreboding shadows and soft contrasts to match 
the mood of the action. In a melodrama, we would preserve 
the low-key lighting, but modify it to give harsh, strong 
contrasts. For what might be termed normal, everyday 
action, we would give the lighting a normal, visual key 
and normal contrasts. For lighter comedy, we would raise 
the lighting to a higher key, not only to match the brighter 
action, but to make certain no comic antic passes unseen. 

These basic treatments are subject to constant interplay 
within a picture, just as the different sections of an or- 
chestrastrings, woodwinds, brasses and percussion blend 



SHOOTING THE MOVIES l6l 

and intermingle to produce constantly changing effects of 
colorful orchestration. Each sequence, and each scene 
within the sequence, of the picture has its own require- 
ments, and must be lit accordingly, yet each must maintain 
a fundamental harmony with the visual mood of the pro- 
duction. 

The matter of camera angles is equally important. Bv 
camera angles I do not necessarily refer to the odd and 
"arty" angles some photographers use to make their work 
appear "modern." These have their place in the cinema, but 
only a minor place. 

Cinematicaily speaking, camera angles refer most simply 
to the various angles that form the basic cinematic vocabu- 
lary: the long shot, or establishing shot; the medium skot, 
which is a closer approach to the subject; the two-shot, 
which is the closest angle you can get of two people while 
still keeping both in the picture; the close-up and the ex- 
treme or big-head close-up. Each of these has, of course, 
many nameless variations. 

But beyond this elementary application, camera angles 
have a much more significant, though less obvious, mean- 
ing. The camera, after all, represents the eye of the audi- 
ence. And by placing the camera in the proper position, we 
can determine not only what the audience shall see, but 
how they will see it and react to it. 

Let's suppose we have a character who is oppressed- In 
real life we would, psychologically speaking, look down at 
him from our own security. In a picture, we can let the 
camera look down on him ever so slightly from above and 
the audience, though not conscious of the downward angle, 
will take the desired mental attitude. On the other hand, 
suppose our character is in the ascendant, rising above ob- 
stacles. In real life we would look up to him mentally; in 



162 "VVE MAKE THE MOVIES 

fact, we would even phrase our admiration that way. In 
the studio, we can let the camera actually look slightly up 
to him and thereby gain the right psychological effect. 

Again, the mechanics of lens-action enters this problem. 
The lens most commonly used in motion-picture photog- 
raphy has a focal length of two inches (50 mm.). A lens of 
longer focal length covers a narrower angle, and will give 
a larger image from the same camera viewpoint. A lens of 
shorter focal length will cover a wider angle, and will give 
a smaller image from the same viewpoint, but will include a 
larger area in the picture. Each lens gives a different per- 
spective; and as the focal length decreases, the depth of 
focus that is, the width of the zone of sharp focus in front 
of and behind the point on which the lens is focused in- 
creases. 

Now in making a close-up, for example, this gives us 
several choices. We can use our standard 50 mm. lens and 
move the camera closer to our player. We can use a lens of 
longer focus, and keep the camera where it was for the 
long shot. Or we can move the camera much closer still, 
and use a short-focus wide-angle lens for our close-up. 
Each will give us a particular effect. Using the standard 
lens, the background will be discernible, though not in 
critically perfect focus. Using a lens of greater focal 
length, the reduced depth of focus will give us a sharp pic- 
ture of our player against a very neutral background. Using 
a short-focus lens, the background will be much more 
prominently focused in the picture. Thus for a normal 
effect we would use a normal lens for the close-up. For a 
close-up in which we wanted attention centered solely on 
the player, we might use a lens of longer focus. For a 
close-up in which we still wanted the background to play 
a prominent part, we would use a wide-angle lens. 



SHOOTING THE MOVIES 163 

There are many other subtle tricks of aiding audience- 
reactions with the camera. None of them are obvious. They 
can't be. They must fit so perfectly into the dramatic 
meaning of the scene that the audience is unconscious of 
them. Camerawork that calls attention to itself is bad 
camerawork. 

Another matter which takes much of the cinematog- 
rapher's attention (not always pleasantly) is the use and 
misuse of the moving-camera technique. Properly used, this 
technique is a commendable and powerful piece of cine- 
matic expression. Improperly used, it is both a nightmare 
and a thoroughly wasteful luxury, for such shots are never 
easy to make and most unnecessarily-made ones are elimi- 
nated or broken down by wise cutters. 

# 

When you sit in a theater and watch a scene in which 
the camera glides effortlessly across a set or up a flight of 
stairs, following an actor's movements, you may think the 
malting of such a shot is simple. In reality, it is anything 
but that. There are so many variable factors to be co- 
ordinated: movements of the actors and of the camera, 
speed, timing, lighting, and so on. Any one of these, even 
slightly out of co-ordination with the others, can ruin the 
whole take. Merely moving the camera is a problem. When 
we made silent films our cameras, loaded and on their tri- 
pods, weighed perhaps fifty pounds. Today the camera 
carries over twice as much film, is driven by an electric 
motor, and housed in a large and heavy soundproof blimp; 
the whole thing may weigh two or three hundred pounds. 
Moving this much dead weight freely about the set is in 
itself a mechanical problem of considerable magnitude. 
Doing it smoothly and noiselessly makes the task even 
more difficult. 

Special devices have been developed for this work. They 



164 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

are generically termed perajnbuhtors, booms and dollies. 
Of course there are many different types, but fundamen- 
tally ail of them consist of a rubber-tired truck upon which 
a crane is mounted carrying the camera and its oper- 
ators. The device may be rolled along the floor on its 
wheels, and the crane-arm may be raised and lowered and 
sometimes revolved, while the camera itself may also be 
panned (swung around horizontally) and tilted (turned up 
or down) on its tilt-kead mounting at the end of the crane 
arm. The perambulators most frequently used allow the 
camera to be used at any height from within a few inches 
of the stage floor up to seven or eight feet in the air. In 
the most recent designs, this hoist is operated by electricity, 
and so convenient is this easily controlled camera-carriage, 
that even for non-moving shots perambulators have almost 
completely supplanted tripods. 

The larger cranes known as booms are huge devices as 
big as a large motor truck, and lift the camera twenty or 
even thirty feet into the air, and permit it to make those 
swooping shots you've probably wondered at. 

Strangely enough, the motive power for manipulating 
most of these camera-moving devices is human brawn. 
With the exception of the power-driven hoist on some of 
the perambulators and one big cranethe largest in the 
world which is completely power-driven, all of these 
devices are moved, turned, raised and lowered by man 
power. This is not as difficult as it seems, for the crane- 
arms are carefully counterweighted. It is possible to raise 
with one hand a twenty-five-foot boom carrying at its 
extremity over half a ton of cameras and cameramen! In 
actual practice, man power is much more satisfactory, for 
with a practiced stage crew, the camera movement is much 



SHOOTING THE MOVIES 165 

more precisely controlled, and experienced nun poorer, un- 
like a machine, can adapt itself to the unexpected. 

Shots in which the camera moves around the set are 
generally called dolly shots. Where the camera is used on 
the big boom and swoops around the set on it, the term is 
boom shot. If the camera moves straight into or out of the 
set, sweeping quickly from a long shot to a close shot of 
some player, we have a zoom shot. Where the camera on 
its dolly travels along with someone walking or riding 
through the scene, so that on the screen we have the im- 
pression of traveling right with the player, we call the 
result a -follow shot, or sometimes a running shot, 

Lighting a big moving-camera shot is always an intricate 
problem. Ordinary lights are made to be satisfactory from 
one viewpoint that of the camera and moving ever so 
slightly from that position may change a good lighting into 
a bad one. When the camera moves constantly about the 
set, the lighting must be such that from every viewpoint, 
during every inch of that motion, the camera sees things 
only as they should be seen. As a result, it takes far longer 
to light and rehearse a perambulator, dolly or boom shot 
than an ordinary non-moving one. It is increasingly com- 
mon practice now, in making such shots, to have many of 
the lamps connected to individual dimming devices so that 
light-beams which may be needed at some point in the shot, 
but which may not be needed or may even be undesirable 
at other points, may be imperceptibly turned on and off as 
they are needed. 

But the really important thing in photographing a mod- 
ern movie is to concentrate on the players. A discussion 
such as this should properly devote a great deal of attention 
to this aspect; but it is so completely a part of individual 
cinematographic technique that it is scarcely possible. One 



1 66 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

might, perhaps, describe how a certain cinematographer 
lights a certain star: but the same man would undoubtedly 
use different technique in filming another star, while an- 
other cinematographer, in photographing the same star, 
would use entirely different methods. 

In general, it may be said that a cinematographer uses 
highlights and shadows to paint the form and features of 
the players in their most attractive aspects. Properly placed 
highlights will accentuate almost any feature; properly 
placed shadows can do wonders in concealment. 

Women, in general, benefit by softer, more delicate 
lighting than men. Again, some stars especially feminine 
ones require highly individual lighting in order to accen- 
tuate their screen personalities. One celebrated glamour 
queen requires a very flat, soft lighting combined with 
camera angles that give an illusion of increased height. An- 
other is best shown with a strong downward-pointed light 
always striking her face, to accentuate high cheek-bones 
and to make the lower part of her face appear less square. 
Many women players with blue eyes, which might other- 
wise photograph too light, are lit always with a small spot- 
light fitted with a magenta-colored gelatin screen which 
makes the eyes seem darker and more sparkling. 

The problem which arises when two or more players, 
each requiring a special type of lighting, are in the same 
scene together may well be imagined. The next time you 
go to a movie, notice how skillfully the cinematographer 
has blended his personal lightings: how, for instance, when 
a feminine star and her leading man appear in the same 
scene, the woman is lit more softly than the man. Yet un- 
less you make a deliberate effort to notice such details, 
you are unconscious of the differences in the lighting of 
each pbyer, save perhaps you feel subconsciously that she 



SHOOTING THE MOVIES l6~ 

looks very feminine and alluring while he looks very 
virile and masculine. 

The make-up worn by the players supplements the 
cinematographer's work. Make-up serves much the same 
purpose as does the retouching of a portrait: it smooths 
out wrinkles and other minor blemishes, and gives the skin 
a smooth and pleasing texture at all times. It also gives the 
skin the right tonal contrast with the player's hair. For in- 
stance, imagine two women with virtually identical skin 
and features, but one a blonde and the other a brunette: 
the brunette would wear a relatively light shade of 
make-up to contrast with her dark hair, while the blonde 
would wear make-up at least a full shade darker to oil set 
her light hair. Shadowed make-up, too, that is, putting arti- 
ficial shadows and highlights where they are needed, can 
often help to simplify the cinematographer's facial light- 
ings. 

The cinematographer, as you can well imagine, spends a 
very full day at the studio. If his unit is moving into a new 
set, he often arrives well in advance of the company so that 
he may have the lighting of the new set well under way 
when the players arrive ready for work. Throughout the 
day he works constantly. When the final take of a scene 
receives the director's O.K., and the set-up is to be changed 
for the next shot, the director and players usually enjoy a 
bit of a breathing-spell. But the cinematographer's real 
work begins, for he must see that his cameras are placed 
for the next shot and the set lit. Then he calls the stand-ins 
of the principal players and gets the personal lighting 
roughed in. With this accomplished, he recalls the princi- 
pals and perfects his lighting. As the director rehearses the 
action, the cinematographer, instead of being able to sit 
back in the security of a job well done, must be ever on 



1 68 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

the alert to see that no change of action may require a 
change in lighting; that not the slightest flaw remains in 
any phase of his set-up. While the scene is being taken, he 
still watches for these details. Rarely indeed is a take made 
which the cinematographer cannot improve by some mi- 
nute detail before the next take is made. It may be a major 
matter like removing with a trace of powder an unwanted 
highlight from the ingenue's nose; or it may be some 
minor detail only a cinematographer would notice, such 
as a beam of light illuminating a bowl of flowers in the 
background, which to his critical eye might be more per- 
fect if the light were a trifle more concentrated, or the 
beam moved a fraction of an inch to one side. And when 
at last the take is pronounced O.K. for action, dialogue 
and sound, the whole performance must be done over 
again to make the next scene. 

This goes on all day. And whether, as in a major studio 
production, the day's work consists of but three or four 
superbly finished scenes or, as in an independent pro- 
ducer's quickie, it involves from fifty to sixty hurriedly- 
made scenes, the cinematographer is constantly straining 
every energy of body and mind to make each scene as per- 
fect as facilities and time allow. It is a tribute to our cine- 
rnatographers that a scene N.G.'d or retaken for photo- 
graphic shortcomings is as rare as the newspaperman's ulti- 
mate rarity, man bites dog. Recently when such an occur- 
rence took place in our studio, the director involved sol- 
emnly placed a strip of the offending film on the camera 
department's bulletin board not to ridicule the camera 
crew responsible, but, as he said, to give the boys a chance 
to see something they rarely have an opportunity to wit- 
ness! 

The number of takes made of each scene varies accord- 



SHOOTING THE MOVIES 169 

ing to individual circumstances. Sometimes every element 
may click perfectly on the first take; at other times, the 
scene may be taken and retaken a dozen or more times 
before everyone is satisfied with the result. Perhaps a safe 
average would be a matter of four or five takes. It is equally 
difficult to say how many feet of film will be used for the 
average scene, since many simple scenes will require but 
forty or fifty feet of film (sometimes less) while others, 
especially important dramatic speeches or intricate boom 
shots, will consume as much as nine hundred feet of film 
at each take. 

What actually appears in the script as a single scene is 
almost always broken up into a number of different angles 
on the same action long shots, close-ups, and so on. Gen- 
erally speaking, many directors will cover every imaginable 
angle on a given bit of action, reasoning that it is best to 
get everything the cutter can possibly use while set and 
players are together, rather than getting too little and hav- 
ing to reassemble everything to fill in the gaps later. Often 
many of these protection shots may not be used or needed, 
but when one counts them against the cost of reassembling 
a troupe for retakes, they cannot be considered extravagant. 

In between all of his strenuous work on the set, the 
cinematographer manages to view the rushes of yesterday's 
work; to consult with the laboratory that develops the film; 
to inspect sets and costumes for future days' work; to con- 
sult with the director and his aides on the best scenes to 
schedule for tomorrow's shooting. In his spare moments at 
home and in the studio, the cinematographer in almost 
every case is conducting some program of private study or 
research to prepare himself for the methods and problems 
of the future. And by way of a hobby, practically every 



170 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

cinematographer uses either a home movie camera or a 
candid still camera! 

No discussion of modern cinematography would be 
complete without at least some mention of special process 
cinematography. It is common knowledge that various 
"trick" photographic methods are used to a greater or 
lesser extent in the making of practically every modern 
feature picture. But a word of explanation is necessary as 
to why these are used. 

Basically, there is but one reason for any special process 
shot. This is that by its use the picture can be improved. 
In some few instances, special-effects camerawork is called 
into play to film scenes which could be made in no other 
way; scenes which might as in The Invisible Man and 
Topper be impossible in real life. But in many more in- 
stances, the reason for using special camera effects is not 
to produce what might be termed a fake, but to film some 
normal action either more effectively, more efficiently or 
more safely than could otherwise be possible. 

In no sense is this faking. Those few purists who decry 
special-effects shots as fakes should, to be consistent, also 
demand that an actor who plays a death scene should 
actually die. 

It is easy to see that if the scenario demands scenes 
showing an Atlantic liner being torpedoed, the Empire 
State Building crashing in ruins, or a train or airplane being 
wrecked, the only economical way to bring this action to 
the screen is by camera trickery in which economical mini- 
atures take the place of real full-size ships, skyscrapers, ex- 
presses or airliners. The actual cost of filming such action 
would normally be prohibitive for producer and public 
alike. And while there are still stunt men capable of crash- 
ing trains, autos and airplanes, and willing to risk their 



SHOOTING THE MOVIES 1J1 

lives in the process, neither the producer nor the public 
would willingly pay the potential price in human life just 
for a moment's thrill on the screen. 

Other types of special process camerawork, such as the 
familiar projected-background or transparency process, in 
which the desired background is projected on a translucent 
screen behind the actors, are used for equally logical 
reasons. The more a production unit can shoot in the 
studio, where every possible element is under the control of 
director, cinematographer and sound engineer, the better 
will be the result and the more economically it can be 
obtained. After all is said and done, the important thing 
is the result presented on the screen. Whether the scene is 
produced by straightforward methods or by any form of 
special-process camerawork, if the scene is not so convinc- 
ingly natural that the beholder forgets all thought of the 
mechanics of its making, that scene has failed its purpose. 

The making of these important scenes is generally 
handled by the special-effects department, which consists 
of a corps of special process cinematographic specialists. 
But the scenes in which the principal players appear re- 
quire the co-operation of the production's director of pho- 
tography as well. Those dizzying transitions in which, for 
example, the incoming scene apparently pushes the previ- 
ous one off the screen, or *wipes in over it, are made by still 
other specialists in a device known as the optical printer, 
which rephotographs the already completed film and in 
the process permits a virtually unlimited range of special 
effects, adding or removing any part of the scene. 

The latest development in cinematography is natural 
color photography. As far as the cinematographer is con- 
cerned, color brings some new problems and many new 
possibilities. In addition to the arrangement and quality of 



172 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

the lighting, we must now also consider its color. Coloring 
must also be taken into consideration in planning composi- 
tions. Since the color camera splits the light-image up into 
three parts, we must use more light than we would for 
black and white. But aside from these relatively minor 
details, good natural color cinematography does not differ 
fundamentally from good black and white cinematog- 
raphy. 

The full story of color cinematography has not yet been 
told, nor will it be until natural color productions are as 
common as today's black and white. When that will be 
if ever no one knows. But we do know that whenever 
that day comes, the cinematographer will be ready to carry 
on in color what he is today doing in black and white: 
translating not merely the physical form of each scene, 
but the mental and emotional imagery underlying them to 
the screen so that "going to the movies" is not merely a 
matter of watching a pictured story, but of feeling and 
living it with the characters. 



XII 

RECORDING AND RE-RECORDING 

Nathan Levinson 



INTRODUCED into the mad world of make-believe 
that singles out the motion picture from all other in- 
dustrial creations, the wedding of the art of sound-record- 
ing to the already established art of photography com- 
pletely transformed one of the world's largest industries 
overnight. No mechanical invention heralded its coming; 
no single technical development spelled its success. Born 
of a fusion of the sciences of electronics, acoustics, optics, 
mechanics and photography, the science of sound-record- 
ing has drawn freely upon the accumulated knowledge of 
workers in all of these fields for its growth and refinement. 

Edison has generally been given credit for the first 
successful recording and reproduction of speech and music. 
Lacking the high-quality microphones, amplifying equip- 
ment, and electrical aids of today, the early sound-record- 
ing mechanisms of Edison were actuated solely by the 
almost infinitesimal quantity of energy present in the sound 
waves being recorded. Similarly, the lack of suitable ampli- 
fiers and loud-speaker mechanisms limited the maximum 
amount of power available to operate his sound-reproduc- 
ers to that derived directly from the actuation of a repro- 
ducing stylus by the wax cylinder. 

Although Edison's first successful recordings date back 

173 



174 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

to the year 1877, it was not until 1891 that he developed 
his Kinetoscope, which enabled a single observer to see an 
animated picture of some thirty seconds' duration. In 1895 
Lumiere's Cinematographe made possible the photography 
and projection of a rapidly recurring series of images to an 
audience of moderate size. 

The development of motion-picture photography and 
projection from this time on continued at a rapid pace, but 
the numerous attempts to combine the projection of sound 
and picture made during the early years of motion-picture 
development met with little success. The problems of syn- 
chronization of sound and action during the production 
and projection of a motion-picture scene, and the restric- 
tions placed upon the freedom of the actor and the camera 
to insure a definite result, were so severe that many such 
attempts by leading scientists never went beyond the ex- 
perimental stage. Consequently the talking motion picture 
seemed as remote an accomplishment in the year 1920 as 
it had a quarter of a century earlier. 

But, as so often happens in scientific research, help ar- 
rived through the medium of an almost abstract discovery. 
Fleming, in his early attempts to perfect the radio detector, 
invented the two-element vacuum tube. De Forest added a 
third element, and an electrical amplifying device was 
born. Arnold and a group of associates in the Western 
Electric Company had by 1915 brought the development 
of the vacuum tube amplifier to the point where trans- 
continental telephony became an accomplished fact. 

The year 1920 witnessed the erection of the first radio- 
broadcasting transmitter in this country. In the succeeding 
three years several hundred additional transmitters were 
built and placed in operation for the release of entertain- 
ment, education, and news broadcasts. Radio receivers were 



RECORDING AND RE-RECORDING 175 

constructed by the millions, and installed for the reception 
of these broadcasts. A new medium had been created which 
enabled artists and performers to play to audiences of un- 
told numbers. The requirements for high-quality sound 
transmission and reception acted as a tremendous stimulant 
to the development of electrical communication equip- 
ment. Development followed development in bewildering 
array until the high-quality microphones, amplifiers, and 
loud-speaker mechanisms of today are available to all, and 
because of these developments the earlier feeble signal-cur- 
rents of Edison can now be amplified to the point where 
they can literally shatter the loud-speaker diaphragms. 

To combat the popularity of the radio receiver in the 
home entertainment field, the phonograph industry availed 
itself of developments in electrical communication, and in 
1925 presented the first electrical recordings and electrical 
phonographs to the public. 

With the development of electrical recording and repro- 
duction from disc records there came the further realiza- 
tion that this medium would make possible a presentation 
of sound to accompany the motion picture. Further devel- 
opments eliminated the difficulty of synchronization, 
which had long been a stumbling block, and insured per- 
fect timing of the voice with the action on the screen. Syn- 
chronized sound and pictures became, at last, a completed 
laboratory accomplishment. 

Many attempts by representatives of the Bell Telephone 
Laboratories and the Western Electric Company to interest 
the various motion-picture companies in the possibilities of 
talking pictures resulted in little or no enthusiasm on the 
part of the motion-picture producers. One group headed 
by the Warner brothers, when approached by the writer, 
immediately appreciated the possibilities of the scientific 



176 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

miracle offered to them. Employing every resource at their 
command, but with not a few misgivings, they undertook a 
year of development work and produced several short sub- 
jects. After they had proven to themselves the feasibility of 
producing talking motion pictures, they produced the first 
commercial feature-length, synchronized-sound motion 
picture the Vitaphone release, Don Jzian. Its first public 
showing was at the Warner Theater in New York City, 
August 6, 1926. The screen had at last acquired a voice. 
And, of equal importance, further Vitaphone releases in- 
dicated definite and gratifying audience approval. The 
overwhelming reception of The Jazz Singer, released for 
public exhibition in October, 1927, resulted in the complete 
capitulation of the Hollywood producing organizations and 
precipitated a frantic scramble to secure the equipment 
necessary for large-scale production of talking motion 
pictures. 

This much is history. The intervening years have wit- 
nessed the establishment of well organized and elaborately 
equipped sound departments in every motion-picture studio 
in the world. Recording of sound on wax discs for motion- 
picture audience purposes has yielded to methods of re- 
cording sound on motion-picture film, which facilitates 
the editing of the sound record and insures perfect syn- 
chronization of the sound and picture. 

A complete exposition of the technique employed, the 
difficulties encountered, and the engineering feats accom- 
plished by those charged with the responsibility of creating 
a perfect aural illusion to accompany the visual one upon 
the screen can scarcely be presented within the confines of 
a single book. We can only attempt, therefore, within the 
following few pages to indicate in a general way the pres- 
ent-day methods of creating the voice of the screen. 



RECORDING AND RE-RECORDING 177 

The personnel of a studio sound department is headed 
by the director of sound recording. His position is neces- 
sarily both administrative and technical in character. He 
has complete authority with regard to his personnel, tech- 
nique of operation, and all of the engineering and operating 
aspects of his recording equipment. His responsibility is 
to secure the best sound possible at a reasonable cost of 
operation and under a wide variety of recording condi- 
tions. Generally an engineer by profession, the sound di- 
rector must be appreciative of the fact that he is sur- 
rounded by people in many branches of creative arts, and 
that his success lies largely in his ability to co-ordinate the 
technical efforts of his department with the work of his 
associates. The sound director often exercises control of 
the recording during the laboratory processing of the film 
and the selection and servicing of the projection equipment 
in the theaters. 

The varied nature of the work of the sound department 
of a major studio means that the sound director must have 
a number of capable assistants to handle the many branches 
of the work for him. His chief engineer is responsible for 
all the purely technical phases of operation, from the instal- 
lation, operation and maintenance of the equipment to the 
development of improved equipment and methods which 
will facilitate the physical problems of recording and re- 
production. The chief mixer furnishes the working contact 
between the sound director and the various staff units 
working on each picture. He checks the daily product, and 
is often responsible for supervising the many recording and 
re-recording operations necessary before the final release is 
made. Supervision over those men who actually operate 
the recording machines is frequently delegated to a chief 
recorder. The actual supervision of the operation and 



178 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

maintenance of the recording circuits and associated equip- 
ment is supervised by several operating transmission engi- 
neers, who are directly responsible to the chief engineer. 
The larger studio sound departments maintain small re- 
search and development groups for the purpose of improv- 
ing the equipment and the recording processes to secure 
greater sound fidelity in the finished product. 

The sound crew assigned to a producing unit normally 
consists of three men. This group is headed by the mixer, 
who is directly responsible for proper positioning of the 
microphones on the set, control of the sound volume re- 
corded, and for the acceptance or rejection of each re- 
cording made on the basis of the quality and perspective 
of the sound as judged through his monitoring system. The 
mixer is often an engineer, although not necessarily so. He 
should be capable of critical appreciation of the quality and 
general character of the sound required to match the action 
portrayed. 

The mixer's assistants are known as stage helpers, their 
duties consisting of providing proper suspensions for the 
microphones, connection of the various microphones to 
their associated amplifiers and to the mixer panels, and gen- 
erally carrying out the inker's instructions as to the han- 
dling of the microphones during recording. The stage 
helper rarely has extensive engineering training, although 
it is extremely desirable that he possess at least an ele- 
mentary knowledge of acoustics so that he may be of the 
greatest possible assistance to the mixer in placement and 
control of the microphone positions. 

The remaining member of the sound crew is the re- 
corder, who is responsible for the operation of the record- 
ing machine and its auxiliary equipment, and, in some cases, 
for the operation and maintenance of all the recording 



RECORDING AND RE-RECORDING 179 

channel equipment. This man is usually a highly trained 
technician who possesses at least a working knowledge of 
the fundamental principles of amplifier operation and test- 
ing, optical system adjustments, and film recording and 
processing technique. 

The complement of equipment microphones, amplifiers, 
mixer panels, power supplies, recording machines and aux- 
iliary apparatus required for a single sound recording 
constitutes a recording channel. In general, such channels 
are of two types: fixed and mobile. In the case of the fixed 
type, all of the equipment, with the exception of the micro- 
phones, microphone amplifiers, mixer panel and a small 
amount of auxiliary equipment, is located in a central re- 
cording building, with underground circuits connecting 
the equipment used on the stages to that in the recording 
building. The mobile recording channel is usually mounted 
upon a truck and may be employed at any point remote 
from the central recording building. A major studio has 
both fixed and mobile channels, and while the design of the 
equipment employed in the various studios differs consid- 
erably, the functions of the units are quite similar. 

It may be of interest to the reader to trace the steps in 
recording from the time the sound is spoken on the stage 
until it is projected from the loud-speaker behind the screen 
in the theater. Sound waves are picked up by the micro- 
phone on the set and converted into a feeble electrical cur- 
rent. This electrical current is amplified thousands of dines 
by special microphone amplifiers, and transferred to the 
mixer panel where its volume is controlled and where the 
sounds picked up by microphones in use are combined in 
proper proportion. The combined sound from all the mi- 
crophones passes from the mixer panel through connect- 



i8o 



WE MAKE THE MOVIES 



ing cables to the main recording amplifier where its energy 
is again multiplied tens of millions of times. 

The electrical energy when it leaves the main recording 
amplifier is divided and delivered in proper proportion to 
the recording machine and to additional amplifiers, from 



MICRO- 
PHONE 




MICRO- 
PHONE 



L.. 






-J 


_ /WASTER 
NEGATIVE 




MASTER 
POSITIVE 




NEGATIVE 
STAMPER 


- 


DISC 
RECORD 





G 



THEATRE 
PROJECTOR 


- 


AMPLIFIER 


- 


LOUD 
SPEAKERS 



An illustrated diagram of the process of the recording 
and reproduction of sound. 

whence it is distributed to the mixer and recorder monitor- 
ing systems. The monitoring systems consist of either head 
phone or loud-speaker equipments capable of reproducing 
the sound originally picked up by the microphones with a 
high degree of fidelity. 

The film-recording machine is a camera of extremely 
precise construction. When the recording machine is in 
operation the film, as it passes a certain point, receives an 
exposure which when developed is a photograph of the 




The sound-recording crew In action on the set. The soitnd mixer in the 
foreground listens through head phones to the actors' voices and adjusts thevi 
at the mixing console. His assistant, the stage helper, stands beside the micro- 
phone boom. An electrician may be seen on The cat-walk, to which the lights 
are attached above the set. (Courtesy of Warner Brothers Pictures.} 




A re-recording room showing the mixer at the console where he combines the 
sound tracks of speech, music and sound effects on one track to fit the pic- 
ture. Each dial of the console adjusts the volume of a different sound truck. 
(Courtesy of Warner Brothers Pictures.) 



RECORDING AND RE-RECORDING l8l 

sound picked up by the microphone at that instant, which 
has been converted into electrical energy. This electrical 
energy is then converted into mechanical energy by pass- 
ing through a pair of very fine wires, which are a part of 
either a recording light valve or galvanometer. The move- 
ment of these fine wires permits the film to become exposed 
to a greater or lesser degree, depending upon the type and 
quantity of electrical energy creating the movement. A 
light valve consists of a loop of duraluminum ribbon sus- 
pended in a magnetic field. The normal spacing of the two 
halves of the loop is only one one-thousandth of an inch, 
and constitutes the slit which allows a given amount of 
light from a lamp to pass through an appropriate lens sys- 
tem and fall on the film. As the electrical currents corre- 
sponding to the original sound as picked up by the micro- 
phones pass through the ribbon, the loop alternately widens 
and narrows in accordance with the intensity and fre- 
quency of these current changes, and expose the film ac- 
cordingly. The resulting recording is known as a variable 
density track. 

A recording galvanometer also consists of a loop of rib- 
bon in a magnetic field. However, the light, instead of pass- 
ing through the loop, strikes a small mirror cemented on 
the ribbons, which reflects the light through a suitable lens 
system on to the film. Speech currents in the ribbons twist 
the mirror from side to side, resulting in a film exposure of 
variable width or variable area, as it is sometimes called- In 
reproduction, either of the sound tracks described serves 
to vary the amount of light falling on a photo-electric cell, 
which in turn translates the light intensities into electrical 
currents. These currents, when amplified and delivered to 
loud-speakers, produce sound corresponding to that origi- 
nally picked up by the microphone. 



1 82 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

When recordings are made on discs instead of film, the 
electrical energy from the recording amplifier is delivered 
to a wax-cutting tool. This tool holds a stylus which is 
caused to move in a lateral or vertical motion in accordance 
with the electrical currents, so that grooves are cut in the 
surface of a smoothly polished soft wax disc. 

The soft waxes are processed by first dusting their 
surface with fine graphite. An electrical connection is made 
to the graphite and the wax is immersed in an electroplating 
bath. The electrolytic action causes a thin sheet of copper 
to be formed on the face of the wax. This sheet follows 
faithfully every groove in the wax, and is called the master 
negative or matrix. The next step is to electroplate the 
master negative to obtain one or more master positive rec- 
ords called mother records. These mothers are of metal and 
serve to produce, by electroplating, several stampers. The 
stampers are used as a die in a hydraulic press where their 
grooves are impressed in record material under heat and 
pressure to form the familiar, hard black disc record. 

The motion-picture cameras and the film- or wax-re- 
cording machines are driven in perfect synchronism by 
electric motors normally controlled from the station of the 
recorder. It is extremely important that all motors con- 
nected to the system rotate at exactly the same speed, as 
the picture is photographed on one film in a picture camera 
on the stage while the sound is recorded on a second film 
or wax in the recording room which may be located in a 
distant recording building. This is accomplished by elec- 
trically interlocking all motors of the system so that they 
all rotate in step with each other. 

Fully three-fourths of all studio recording is carried on 
in sound stages. These buildings vary in size from fifty feet 
in width by sixty feet in length, to two hundred feet in 



RECORDING AND RE-RECORDING 183 

width by three hundred feet in length. Most of these stages 
are of extremely rigid construction and have been designed 
with particular care to prevent the transmission of sound 
through walls, ceilings and doors. Many of the larger stages 
are provided with elaborate ventilating systems, for the 
quantity of heat generated by the various arc and incan- 
descent lamps employed in set lighting is sufficient to raise 
the temperature of the stage interior to an uncomfortably 
high degree. The humidity of the air must be controlled 
as well as the temperature. A ventilating system on a typi- 
cal large stage removes sixty gallons of water from the air 
every hour. 

Preparation for recording sound for a picture is usually 
started several days before actual production of the picture 
gets under way. Copies of the final script are supplied to 
the sound director and the chief mixer, who study these to 
determine the nature and scope of any special recording 
equipment which might be required. A sound crew and 
suitable equipment are then assigned to the new company. 

The members of the sound crew each day report to their 
posts approximately an hour before actual production of 
the picture is started. Microphones are suspended, the 
necessary power and signal cables are connected, motor 
and synchronizing circuits are tested, and transmission tests 
are completed from stage microphones to the recording 
machine. The scene to be shot is carefully rehearsed by the 
players, the mixer meanwhile carefully checking the bal- 
ance between his microphones and the quality of the sound 
pick-up through his monitor system. The recorder is simul- 
taneously making ready his equipment and checking the 
sound volume delivered to the recording machine. He 
punches or otherwise impresses on the film in the recording 
machine a combination of letters and numerals which per- 



184 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 



identify each scene made during the picture. 

When rehearsals have been completed to the satisfaction 
of the director, he signals the mixer for a take. The mixer, 
by means of a buzzer or signal light system, transmits this 
information to the recorder, who thereupon immediately 
starts the motor system. When the system has attained a 
normal running speed he supplies an electrical synchroniz- 
ing impulse to the camera on the stage, and the action of 
the scene is started. Upon completion of a take the mixer 
signals this information to the recorder, who thereupon 
stops the motor system, repunches or otherwise marks the 
film for the next scene, and checks his equipment to insure 
its continued proper functioning. If carried through to 
completion successfully, and found suitable from the di- 
rectorial, photographic and sound standpoints, the scene 
is choiced or approved for laboratory processing. If direc- 
tor, cinematographer or mixer feels that an improvement 
can be effected, the scene is retaken until all concerned 
feel that further attempts would scarcely result in better 
takes than those already made. 

The director indicates the disposition to be made of the 
various scenes, and this information is carefully recorded 
upon the mixer's log sheets and the recorder's film report. 
At the end of a day's work the exposed negative, together 
with attached film report cards, is sent to the film labora- 
tory for processing. 

Not all stage recording is as straightforward as that de- 
scribed above. Many scenes call for the photography and 
recording of large dance ensembles, orchestral accompani- 
ment to vocalists, tap-dancing teams or similar numbers. 
The difficulty and expense involved in rehearsing a large 
orchestra, in addition to the principals appearing in such 
scenes, frequently make it advisable to employ an artifice 



RECORDING AND RE-RECORDING 185 

known as pre-recording or pre-scoring. The band or or- 
chestra, without being photographed, makes a recording of 
the number as it is to be used in the final picture. Simul- 
taneously with the recording of the music on film, several 
corresponding disc records are made. The actors are re- 
hearsed and photographed to the tempo of these discs 
which are reproduced or played back at the identical speed 
at which they were recorded. The scene thus photographed 
to the music from the pre-recorded disc will be in syn- 
chronism with the recording on the film throughout its 
length, and in this manner we are enabled to produce large 
musical numbers giving the directors and actors the great- 
est latitude possible in photography without the necessity 
of thinking further of the sound recording. If the orches- 
tra which played for the pre-recording sound record is to 
appear in the scene, its members go through all the motions 
of playing their instruments or actually do play the instru- 
ments, being at all rimes extremely careful to play in syn- 
chronism with the music reproduced from the pre-recorded 
records. Ordinarily no sound is recorded during the pho- 
tographing of these scenes, as the record made during the 
process of pre-recording serves the purpose. If the number 
being photographed to a pre-recorded record involves dia- 
logue between any of those taking part in the scene, only 
the dialogue is recorded as the scene is photographed, and 
the music is stopped during such recording. Later, while in 
the process of re-recording or finishing the production, the 
proper combination or blending of the dialogue and music 
is effected. 

Fundamentally the recording technique employed while 
a company is on location differs only in minor respects 
from that employed in the studio. The equipment being 
somewhat smaller and generally more portable than that 



1 86 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

used in connection with the fixed studio channels, the mixer 
can almost always so dispose his equipment that he may 
occupy a position close to the action being photographed. 
On a clear, quiet day the difficulties of location recording 
are scarcely greater than those in the studio, but windy or 
rainy weather creates pick-up conditions seldom encoun- 
tered on the closed stages. The noise induced in the micro- 
phone due to gusts of wind or to the patter of rain drops 
is often so great in intensity as to blanket the actors' dia- 
logue. Numerous ingenious devices, few of which have 
ever been submitted as examples of contemporary art, have 
been devised as protective coverings for microphones. 
These have come to be known as <wnd gags and rain gags, 
and consist of a wire framework covered by a light silk 
or linen cloth. Although not capable of completely elimi- 
nating disturbances due to wind or rain, they are of suffi- 
cient value to enable recording to be carried on when it 
would otherwise be impossible. 

While the great majority of locations chosen are within 
fifty or a hundred miles of the main studio plant, it fre- 
quently happens that complete recording units must be 
shipped across the continent or even to foreign countries. 
When such occasions arise, the choice of the sound person- 
nel must be made with extreme care, for the bulk, weight 
and cost of any great amount of spare equipment renders 
its inclusion impracticable. The men chosen for the more 
distant locations must not only be capable of securing the 
maximum from their equipment in the way of quality, but 
must also be qualified to make such tests and repairs as may 
from time to time be required to permit its continued 
operation. 

At the conclusion of each day's production, the sound 
negative is forwarded to the film laboratory by whatever 



RECORDING AND RE-RECORDING 187 

form of transportation may be available. Both picture and 
sound are viewed at the earliest opportunity, for only in 
this way can defects in photography and recording be 
recognized sufficiently early to avoid costly retakes. 

Practically every sound picture released for the purpose 
of entertainment is equipped with an appropriate and often 
elaborate musical score. The typical feature picture is 
scored by a studio orchestra maintained for this purpose, 
although occasionally the more pretentious pictures em- 
ploy the services of various nationally and internationally 
known musical groups. The score for each picture is writ- 
ten to suit the moods and tempos of the various scenes, and 
the music found suitable for one picture is seldom, if ever, 
later employed in another. 

Most music scoring is done on stages which have been 
specifically designed for this purpose. The general stage 
construction is similar to that of the other sound stages, dif- 
fering principally in that the acoustical treatment of the 
walls, floor and ceiling is given great consideration. A 
motion-picture screen fitted to the stage wall in such posi- 
tion as to be clearly visible to the orchestra conductor and 
the sound mixer, and appropriate motion-picture projec- 
tion equipment, enables those immediately concerned to 
accurately fit the tempo and length of each musical se- 
quence to the corresponding picture action. 

The sound-recording equipment employed for scoring 
is usually identical to that used for company recording, 
with the possible exception of more elaborate channel su- 
pervisory and communication equipment. The mixer panel, 
or console, is often built into a small room immediately ad- 
jacent to the scoring stage. Double plate-glass window con- 
struction affords the mixer a view of the musicians and the 
conductor, yet provides sufficient sound insulation between 



1 88 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

the stage and the booth so the mixer is not confused by 
sounds from the stage combining with those from his 
monitor speaker system. 

Each reel of the picture is scored in sections, the numer- 
ous choice takes being later spliced to form a continuous 
sound track. One advantage of this mode of operation lies 
in the fact that after a number of relatively short rehearsals 
the musicians are able to give a practically flawless per- 
formance, while if an entire reel were scored during a 
single continuous take, the physical and mental strain would 
be greater on all concerned. Since a beautifully written and 
ably executed musical score is of inestimable aid in estab- 
lishing the excellence of a motion-picture production, sound 
engineers spare no effort to secure the finest possible music 
recording. 

Musical scoring as generally practiced might be classed 
as a post-recording process, since it is rarely begun until 
photography and editing of the picture are completed. The 
process of post-recording is also occasionally applied to the 
recording of dialogue or vocal solos. The section of film to 
be post-recorded is projected upon the screen, and micro- 
phones are so suspended that the performer can readily 
view the image thrown upon the screen and at the same 
time conveniently speak or sing into the microphone. The 
motor system used to drive the sound-recording machine 
also supplies the necessary power to the motion-picture 
projection machine, so that both machines run at exactly 
the same speed. The performer rehearses the part several 
times, attempting perfectly to synchronize lip movements 
with those appearing upon the screen, and then makes a 
recording of the required material. While the mixer as- 
signed to handle post-recording work is wholly responsible 
for securing a satisfactory degree of synchronization be- 



RECORDING AND RE-RECORDING 189 

tween sound and picture, he seldom experiences any great 
difficulty for many of the screen players have developed 
an almost uncanny ability for this type of work. Children 
especially have a fine sense of timing their dialogue to lip 
movements on the screen. 

The many thousands of feet of sound negative exposed 
during each day of production are in themselves of little 
value until properly processed, printed and assembled with 
the corresponding picture scenes. These and other related 
operations are the work of the film laboratory. 

Separate prints are made from the picture and sound 
negatives. These prints are then passed through a double 
re-wind mechanism, and the corresponding start marks on 
each film are accurately aligned at the beginning of each 
of the takes comprising the reel. Following synchronization 
of the prints, they are delivered to the studio editing de- 
partment. From this point the film is distributed to the 
various studio projection rooms, where the directors, play- 
ers, cameramen, editors, sound engineers and others con- 
cerned check the daily product, after which the prints are 
distributed to the editors assigned to the pictures in prog- 
ress. The daily inspection of sound and picture affords the 
sound department an opportunity to check the operation 
of each recording channel in service, and to mate such 
changes in equipment or technique as may occasionally 
be required to maintain a high standard of quality. 

Preliminary assembly of the numerous scenes compris- 
ing a picture is usually started shortly after the arrival of 
the first day's prints from the film laboratory. The film 
editor assembles the various picture and sound scenes in 
accordance with the general instructions issued by the pro- 
duction supervisor, attempting to secure through the judi- 
cious intercutting of medium shots, long shots and dose- 



190 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

ups a vibrant and dynamic, though smoothly flowing, ex- 
position of the screen narrative. At the completion of the 
preliminary picture assembly, the total film footage in- 
volved may exceed that appearing in the theater release 
print by anywhere from two to ten times. An example of 
the painstaking care used in editing a production can be 
gathered when it is realized that only about 8 per cent of 
the original film shot on a picture appears in the final re- 
lease print as it is shown in the theaters. 

The following stages in the process of film editing are 
principally concerned with the partial or complete re- 
moval from the picture of numerous scenes appearing in 
the original assembly, the objective being that of injecting 
a strong sense of movement in the narrative without in any 
way impairing the continuity or logical unfolding of the 
story. 

Following completion of the latter stages in the editing 
process, the 'work print is viewed by representatives of the 
various departments concerned with the completion of the 
picture, after which the work print is turned over to the 
sound department for final re-recording. 

The process of sound re-recording forms one of the 
most interesting and vital of those involved in the produc- 
tion of sound motion pictures. It is in this process that the 
numerous "sound effects" which add the final touch of 
realism to the picture are normally introducedwhere the 
musical score is interwoven with the dialogue and sound 
effects and where the dramatic control of sound volume 
is finally exercised. Because of the intricate nature of these 
various operations it is customary for the sound department 
to maintain a separate group of engineers and technicians 
whose efforts are devoted exclusively to the task of re- 
recording. 



RECORDING AND RE-RECORDING 191 

Every theater patron has, through years of co-ordination 
of the senses of sight and hearing, grown accustomed to the 
existence of various types of sounds for the various physi- 
cal actions and processes he or she has observed. It is only 
natural, therefore, that the highest degree of screen realism 
can be achieved only when each bit of action portrayed is 
accompanied by the sounds appropriate to the screen 
image. It is, unfortunately, frequently economically or 
physically impossible to record on each stage or location 
the particular sounds appropriate to the action being pho- 
tographed. Real thunder is a true rarity in Hollywood; the 
wind seldom howls eerily through the rafters of the sound 
stage; miniature explosions are generally unaccompanied 
by a soul-satisfying roar; the sounds of automobiles, trains, 
steamships and aircraft are often quite impossible to pro- 
duce upon the stage, and science has not yet attained that 
command over the earth whereby disastrous earthquakes 
can be produced at the command of the motion-picture 
director. One of the few avenues through which these and 
many other types of sound may be introduced into the 
picture is through the process of re-recording. 

Following receipt of the picture work print by the sound 
re-recording group, the various reels of picture and sound 
track are reproduced in review rooms to ascertain the 
nature of the sound effects required to establish a satisfac- 
tory illusion of reality, to choose those scenes in which the 
musical score should predominate over all other sound, to 
determine the relative importance of background music 
and dialogue in the various scenes, and to note those se- 
quences which require unusual accentuation or suppression 
of sound to heighten the dramatic or comedy effect. The 
sound-track editors or cutters then proceed to assemble the 
various reels of music, dialogue and sound effects which 



192 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

are to be electrically combined to form the finished sound 
track. Most studios have, over a period of years, built up 
elaborate libraries of sound effects, in which thousands of 
feet of film bearing the records of innumerable sounds of 
everyday life are systematically filed. Additions are made 
to these libraries from time to time as equipment and op- 
portunity afford or as production may require. In the early 
days when sound equipment was less faithful in recording 
than it is today, the sound of horses' hoofs, railroad trains 
and lion roars were produced synthetically by means of 
cocoanut shells, roller skates on wood, and resin strings. 
Now almost all sound effects heard in pictures are record- 
ings of the actual sounds themselves from the chirping of 
crickets to the peals of thunder. Every effort is made to 
insure that each bit of sound added to the picture shall be 
approprkte to and exactly synchronized with its corre- 
sponding action. All in all, the preparation of the various 
sound tracks for the process of re-recording is a more 
elaborate task than the recording of the original dialogue 
and music for the picture. When all is in readiness for the 
actual process of re-recording, it is customary to find that 
anywhere from two to ten or more individual sound tracks 
are required for the composition of the single release nega- 
tive. 

The re-recording machines employed for the reproduc- 
tion of sound from the various individual sound tracks in- 
volved are similar in principle of 'operation to the sound 
reproducers employed in the theater. An incandescent lamp 
illuminates a very narrow mechanical slit in the path of the 
light beam. A sharp image of this illuminated slit is formed 
in the plane of the film as it passes through the re-recording 
machine, the image being accurately centered upon the area 
of the film occupied by the sound track. The sound track 



RECORDING AND RE-RECORDING 193 

passes between an incandescent lamp and a photo-electric 
cell. The variations in opacity of the film representing the 
sounds recorded thereon create corresponding variations 
of intensity in the light falling on the cell. The variations 
in light intensity create corresponding variations in the 
electrical current flow through the cell. The electrical out- 
put of the photo-electric cell is amplified millions of times 
by suitable vacuum tube amplifiers, and actuates the light 
valve or galvanometer of a recording machine. 

The electrical output of each re-recording machine is 
controlled manually by the re-recording mixer, who com- 
bines the outputs of the various re-recording machines in 
any desired proportions. The motors of the re-recording 
and recording machine operate in synchronism. A portion 
of the electrical energy from the re-recording amplifiers is 
employed to actuate a monitoring loud-speaker system by 
means of which the mixer is enabled to judge the quality 
and composition of the re-recorded sound track during the 
process of re-recording. With the exception of the re- 
recording machines, the re-recording channel differs in 
only minor respects from the channels employed for origi- 
nal recording. 

Depending somewhat upon the character of the sound 
track involved, a complete reel may be re-recorded in a 
single operation or may be split up into a number of short 
sequences, which are kter spliced to form a single con- 
tinuous track. Under either mode of operation each se- 
quence is preceded by a number of rehearsals to permit 
the mixer to thoroughly familiarize himself with the ma- 
terial to be re-recorded, and to permit him to establish 
certain equipment settings and adjustments necessary to 
the successful combination of the various sound tracks 
involved in a single new track. 



194 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

The new sound-track negative obtained through the 
process of re-recording is processed in the film laboratory 
in a manner identical to that employed for the original 
sound track. The method of printing this negative, how- 
ever, differs from that employed for the original. The 
picture negative, cut to match the editor's work print, 
and the re-recorded sound negative are now printed upon 
the same piece of film, the sound track lying between the 
space occupied by the picture itself and the sprocket holes 
at the edge of the film. The "start" of the sound track and 
the "start" of the picture are, moreover, displaced along 
the length of the film by a distance of approximately four- 
teen and a half inches, so that at the instant that a given 
frame of the picture appears in the picture aperture of the 
theater projection machine the corresponding point of the 
sound track is between the lamp and the photo cell in the 
projection machine sound head. This separation is necessi- 
tated by the fact that each frame of the picture is momen- 
tarily held stationary in the picture aperture during its pro- 
jection upon the screen, the picture advancing through the 
aperture in a series of discrete steps, whereas the sound 
track must pass the light beam with a uniform and con- 
tinuous motion. The fourteen-and-a-half -inch separation 
between the various picture frames and the corresponding 
points of the sound track permits completely independent 
control of the film motion at the two apertures. 

The composite print of picture and sound track is now 
returned to the sound department for inspection and such 
corrections as may appear desirable. The relative sound 
volume of various sections of the print may require modi- 
fication to produce desired effects, necessitating a second 
re-recording of those portions of the print concerned, or 
suitable change in the exposure of those sections of the 



RECORDING AND RE-RECORDING 195 

print. Following completion of the necessary modifications 
to the track, the laboratory submits a second composite 
print for inspection and if, as is usually the case, this 
proves satisfactory, the print is ready for the approval 
of the production supervisors. 

A majority of the feature productions and many of the 
less pretentious pictures are previewed in local theaters for 
the purpose of determining audience reaction. Following 
these previews, the fate of the picture is decided through 
conference of the various production executives. If tie 
picture is approved without alteration, the film laboratory 
is ordered to prepare the required number of prints for 
theater release. If, on the other hand, extensive recutting 
of the picture seems advisable, the sound department is 
faced with the necessity of repeating much of the work 
of re-recording already performed. 

The preparation of release prints for a feature produc- 
tion would indeed be a hazardous undertaking if none other 
than the original sound and picture negatives were avail- 
able. These negatives represent the entire financial invest- 
ment of each production, and must be printed from a hun- 
dred to four hundred times to secure the number of prints 
required for exhibition in American theaters alone. It is, 
therefore, evident that abrasion or breakage of the nega- 
tive would result in an intolerable loss to the studio if no 
form of protection other than careful handling of the 
negatives were assured. Fortunately, insurance against such 
loss is afforded through the medium of photographic dupli- 
cation of the original negatives. This process is a relatively 
simple and direct one, though critical in its demands upon 
laboratory control. 

The negatives to be duplicated are first individually 
printed upon a lavender-base duplicating stock. The re- 



196 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

sultant print is similar to a normal print upon positive film, 
but is more faithful in its rendition of tone and fine detail. 
After processing in a normal positive developer, the laven- 
der prints are themselves employed as negatives. Prints 
from them are made on sound-recording film or picture- 
negative stock as the nature of the lavenders may demand. 
This second set of prints becomes, upon suitable develop- 
ment, the duplicate of the original negatives employed in 
the process, and provides not only a form of insurance 
against destruction of the original negatives but also a 
negative which may be used at will. At least one print 
from each of the duplicate negatives produced is submit- 
ted for approval of the sound department before being 
employed for printing or packed for shipment. 

Each print released from the film laboratory for use in 
the theater must conform to certain accepted standards 
relating to over-all length, form, position of picture tide, 
reel designation, length of blank leader at the beginning 
and end of the reel, and to the position and number of 
cue marks which notify the theater projectionist of an 
approaching change-over. A majority of the film labora- 
tories inspect each reel of film printed for theater release 
by projecting the prints upon viewing screens before ship- 
ping the film to the exchanges. 

To enable a continuous performance on the theater 
screen, a minimum of two projection machines is required 
in every theater. While one reel of a picture is being pro- 
jected by one of the machines, the projectionist is free to 
thread up the second machine and prepare it for operation. 
Each reel of a picture bears two sets of cue marks a short 
distance from the end. The first of these serves as a 
warning to the projectionist to start the motor of the idle 
projection machine, and the second serves as an indication 



RECORDING AND RE-RECORDING 197 

of the instant at which projection must be transferred from 
the outgoing to the incoming machine. Skillful operation 
of the projection equipment permits the theater patron to 
view hours of screen entertainment without the slightest 
knowledge of the many operational transitions from one 
projection machine to the other. 

The projection of a picture in the theater marks the 
culmination of months and sometimes years of effort on 
the part of the motion-picture producer. The excellence 
of a production can only be fully realized if the theater- 
projection equipment is of an equal degree of excellence 
to that of the picture camera and sound-recording equip- 
ment employed in making the picture at the studio. Main- 
tenance and operation of the projection equipment should 
be entrusted only to properly trained projectionists, for 
many of the elements of the projection system are the 
refined product of years of engineering research and de- 
sign, and successful operation of the equipment requires 
more than a superficial knowledge of mechanical and 
electrical principles. 

The experienced projectionist takes much pride in the 
flawless performance of the equipment under his super- 
vision. The rarity of complete failure of theater-projection 
equipment is in itself a remarkable tribute to the excellence 
of design, construction and maintenance of the thousands 
of such equipments in daily service. 

Thus, in brief, is the sound motion picture created and 
reproduced. Progress and refinement in the art of record- 
ing and projection of sound continues, as in the case of 
other highly technical industries, at a rate governed largely 
by the scope of laboratory research directed toward this 
end. Generally speaking, startling or revolutionary devel- 
opments in the art are quite infrequent, the progress made 



198 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

consisting rather of the gradual but continuous improve- 
ment of each of the units comprising the chain of equip- 
ment from microphone to theater loud-speakers. The ulti- 
mate aim of the recording engineer is to secure such a 
degree of realism in recording and reproduction that sound 
from the screen appears to be identical with the sound 
which originated during the photographing of the scene. 



XIII 

CUTTING THE FILM 

Anne Bauchens 



MANY people ask me what film editing is. I would 
say it is very much like a jigsaw puzzle, except 
that in a jigsaw puzzle the little pieces are all cut out in 
the various forms and you try to fit them together to 
make a picture, while in cutting films you have to cut your 
pieces first and then put them together. 

I think this can be more clearly outlined if I start at the 
beginning of our work on each production. What I out- 
line here, however, is not a set rule for all studios, as no 
two studios work exactly alike. Besides, different directors 
and producers work differently with their editors. Some 
directors stop work on a picture after the last scene has 
been shot. TTien the producer takes the responsibility and 
does all the editing with the cutter or editor in the pro- 
jection room. Other directors work very closely with the 
cutter and follow the film through until after the preview. 
A few insist on cutting their own pictures. But they are 
very scarce. 

In most studios a cutter or editor, as he is sometimes 
called, and an assistant, are assigned to the picture about 
a week before production starts. In some studios, a first 
and second cutter are assigned, the second cutter being 
qualified to make a rough assembly of the picture as well 

199 



200 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

as doing the work of an assistant. The first cutter acts in 
the capacity of an editor. 

A script is given to the cutter which he or she reads and 
studies to get a general idea of the type of story: dramatic, 
comedy, musical or spectacular, each of which is handled 
in a slightly different manner. 

Generally the editors work very closely with the pro- 
ducer and as much as possible with the director. In some 
studios the editor stays on the set during the shooting. In 
that way he keeps in close touch with the director and 
has a better opportunity of learning why he shoots his 
scenes the way he does. Sometimes he makes suggestions 
if he feels the need of additional close-ups to help in edit- 
ing. He is always watching for places where protection 
shots might be needed. These are shots taken from dif- 
ferent angles which cover the action so completely that 
no retakes will be necessary. Protection shots are also used 
in editing to give variety to the telling of the story. 

At the beginning of every scene a slate is photographed, 
on which the number of the scene to be shot, the produc- 
tion number and the cameraman's name are written. The 
same numbers are written on the sound track, so that the 
picture and track can easily be identified. When the scene 
is ready to be shot, after it has been slated, a mark of 
synchronization is put on the film in the camera and on 
the sound track in the recording room, so that the pic- 
ture and sound will be in perfect synchronization. This 
sync mark, as it is called, can be made either by punching 
a hole in the picture and track, before the scene is shot, 
or by having the assistant cameraman clap two pieces of 
wood, or a clapper, together, so that the picture and cor- 
responding sound are in sync at the beginning of the 
scene. 



CUTTING THE FILM 2OI 

During the shooting, the script girl keeps an accurate 
account of each scene as it is made, its number slated on 
the film, the script scene to which it belongs, the number 
of cameras shooting (if more than one camera is being 
used, each with a different lens, to record long shots, me- 
dium shots and close-ups, simultaneously), the footage, 
a description of the scene and the dialogue. At the end of 
the day's shooting, a copy of the above is sent to the editor 
to aid him when he receives the rushes or daily. This 
daily is then sent to the laboratory, where it is devel- 
oped and a positive print is made of both the picture and 
sound track. The scenes are then assembled on reels, 
the picture on one reel and the sound track on another. 
Since the motors of the camera and recording machine are 
interlocked, once the beginning of a shot is put in sync 
the whole film will be in sync also. The laboratory need 
only start the two reels of picture and track at the sync 
marks, and the rest of the film is automatically synchro- 
nized. The following day the film is sent to the cutting 
department with a laboratory report on the number of 
scenes included. 

At the end $f the shooting day the director, producer, 
editor, cameraman and sometimes the principal actors, as- 
semble in the projection room assigned to them and run 
this daily, which comprises the scene shot on the previous 
day. I might explain here that sometimes in difficult scenes 
more than one camera is used, each lined up to get a dif- 
ferent angle of the scene: one a long shot, another a close 
shot, perhaps a third from the side and a fourth from 
above. While three or four different shots are made of 
this scene, only one sound track is necessary, as the dia- 
logue and action will be the same for all the shots. When 
the reels of daily are lined up for projection, each of these 



202 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

shots, which have the same sync marks, are placed on 
separate reels. But all of them correspond with one track. 
Each scene has the same slate number at the beginning, 
but a different letter. For example, if the scene number 
is 23, one camera will use number 23 A for a long shot, 
another 2 36 for a medium shot, and so forth. When these 
dailies or rushes are run in the projection room for the 
director, 23 A will be run first with sound track number 
23. Then, at the end of the projection, the operator will 
rewind the reel of track and run it with 236, and so on, 
for as many takes as there are of this one scene. 

The director then selects the take he wants. He can also 
see whether a scene could be improved by adding extra 
scenes or by retaking it. If this is the case, he makes the 
additional scenes on the following day. 

The film is now turned over to the editor and his as- 
sistant, who takes the reels of the daily to the numbering 
room. There are generally two numbering machines to 
each room. The assistant puts the picture on one machine 
and the sound track on the other, threading it through as 
you would a projecting machine. He takes as his starting 
point the sync mark on the first scene of the reel, then 
fixes the number dial on each machine at ooo and starts 
the motor running. Automatically, every foot is numbered 
at the edge of the film until the end. The first foot from 
sync would be ooi, and the last, if there were 800 feet 
on the reel, would be numbered 800. This numbering sys- 
tem always enables the cutter to keep his scenes in sync, 
so that the words will be spoken at the split second that 
an actor moves his lips to speak them. 

The assistant cutter then breaks down this reel of scenes 
on to what is called a flange or split reel, which is put on 
the rewind, or metal support for the reels, on the cutting 



CUTTING THE FILM 203 

bench. When he gets to the end of a scene he cuts it off 
with a pair of scissors, and by reversing the rewind he 
takes it off the flange in a roll, marks the slate number on 
the film, and puts a rubber band around it to hold it in 
place. After the daily has been completely broken down 
into rolls of film in this manner, it is usually lined up on 
the editor's bench in numerical order. The editor is now 
ready to start work. 

One of the mechanical aids to the cutter is the Moviola, 
which is similar to a projection machine only much 
smaller. The picture is seen through a magnifying lens on 
one side, and the sound is heard on the other. The picture 
and track can be run together or separately. By using the 
Moviola the editor can be sure his cut on the sound track 
is right, and that he has not cut into the middle of a sen- 
tence. Similarly, he can be sure of not cutting into a move- 
ment which should be completed, and of matching action 
when going from one scene into another. 

He assembles the scenes according to the script. He does 
not select the various shots merely to give variety to the 
picture. Each shot expresses a different phase of emotion 
or interest, depending on the type of story. Knowing this, 
he now tries to tell it by using each of these shots as effec- 
tively as possible. For instance, a long shot is an establish- 
ing shot to give the geographical location of the sequence. 
It could cover a battlefield, a city viewed from a hilltop, 
or a street or cafe. You might use ten feet of it, or again, 
you might use twenty-five or fifty feet, depending en- 
tirely on its beauty and how long you feel it will interest 
your audience. 

Your next cut depends on where the interest in your 
story lies. Perhaps the camera has moved closer to any of 
the above scenes or closer to a group of people, so that 



204 WE MA &E THE MOVIES 

you would use a semi or medium shot. If your interest is 
focused on a group of people, a medium shot will help the 
audience to see distinctly what they are saying and doing. 
As your story grows more intimate you use closer shots, 
perhaps of two people or perhaps a large close-up of one 
of them, to accompany an interesting line of dialogue. If 
an important thought is to be registered you might use 
a close-up just of the eyes or the hands or any object 
which you want the audience to see clearly, such as a 
flower or a pistol. Then you might cut back to a medium 
shot of several people reacting to it. 

You must always keep the audience's eyes focused on 
the main point of interest. There is no set rule how or 
when to use these various shots and angles. You know 
from experience that you cannot express a deep emotion 
or tell an important thought in a very long shot. It is not 
always necessary to tell it in a close-up of a face, but you 
should be able to see your character and know what he is 
thinking. 

Much has been said about how directors waste film and 
shoot entirely too much which is never used. This may 
be true on rare occasions, but generally all this film is 
necessary. Most scenes are shot overlapping each other, 
so that there will be the same action on your group shot 
as on your individual close-ups. You can never be sure 
exactly which of these will best tell your story until you 
have cut it one way and then, if it does not look right, 
tried it another. The director who protects his picture in 
this way generally turns out a better picture than the one 
who is conservative and tries to cut his picture while 
shooting his scenes. 

I have often been asked what methods are used in cut- 
ting different types of scenes, such as dramatic and com- 



CUTTING THE FILM 205 

edy scenes. I cannot say there is any particular method 
or rule for cutting. Sometimes the length of the scene, 
sometimes its action, creates the tempo. My opinion is that 
we handle the feel and tempo of the picture entirely by 
instinct and feeling, and not by any set rule. We know 
that an emotional and a comedy scene must be cut dif- 
ferently. In a comedy you can cut back and forth much 
more often, since comedy is played in a much faster tempo. 
But you must be careful not to kill a laugh by cutting 
away from it too soon. For an emotional scene you use 
a much slower tempo, particularly if it has been well acted 
and directed. Sometimes you can hold an emotional scene 
for quite a long time on die screen. 

Drama may be expressed in many different ways. When 
the suspense of the story is great, you can use many kinds 
of cuts to play it up and postpone the climax for a long 
time. For example, a montage might be used to heighten 
the suspense. This is a fast-moving group of short scenes, 
some symbolical, some real, which, when combined, rep- 
resent some emotion or event. In The Emperor's Candle- 
sticks a montage was used to hold the suspense until the 
final unraveling of the plot. Here were two spies, each 
of whom had an important document hidden in one of a 
pair of candlesticks, and neither knowing of the other's 
secret. The candlesticks are stolen, and they both set out 
to find them. For suspense, the candlesticks have been 
pawned. Each spy learns the address of the pawnbroker 
and meets there only to discover that the candlesticks have 
been sold to a collector. From then on the story follows 
both characters in a search for the missing candlesticks. 
These scenes might have been monotonous, and lacking in 
suspense, if the cutter had not made a montage of the fol- 
lowing shots: Trains tearing through the country, wheels 



206 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

of trains, names of hotels, faces of clerks behind hotel 
desks shaking their heads in negation, shots of a man and 
woman's feet walking rapidly along streets, and shots of 
the present owner of the candlesticks, always a jump ahead 
of the spies. This montage was carried as long as the sus- 
pense held. Then, when the man finally locates the miss- 
ing pair being auctioned off at an antique dealer's and is 
about to buy it, he is intercepted by the woman spy, who 
appears and tries to outbid him. 

Battles are often successfully presented by using mon- 
tage. Here the horror and thrills are told more through 
suggestion than by actual scenes, such as flashes of faces 
in agony, feet stepping into mud, gun flashes and the 
wheels of cannon. The sound here often supplies as much 
of the psychological effect as an actual battle scene. 

The process of cutting a film involves a number of me- 
chanical steps. You begin with a leader or short strip of 
blank film, one for the picture and one for the track, 
marking on it the number of the reel you are cutting. 
Then you cut in your first scene, possibly a long shot, 
with its corresponding track, always running it through 
to make sure it is in sync. You attach the beginning of the 
cut film to the leader with an ordinary paper clip. Then, 
when you are ready to cut in your next shot, you care- 
fully examine the scene to be sure you are not cutting on 
a word or bad movement. You mark the place you want 
to cut with a grease pencil. Then you take the scene you 
have decided will follow this and match its action as closely 
as possible with your last shot. If it is a long shot of one 
character sitting in a chair and another turning away from 
him, you must be certain that your second shot, which 
might be a medium shot, matches the action of the man's 



CUTTING THE FILM 207 

turning. Otherwise the transition between the two shots 
will be too jerky. 

The pieces of film which are cut away as waste are 
called trims. These are hung on small nails in the bin be- 
side your cutting bench. The bin is a wooden or metal 
box, about six feet long by three feet wide and about four 
feet deep. A narrow wooden piece, about one and a half 
inches wide, is fastened to each end of the bin, and ex- 
tends above it about three feet. A rack is formed by a 
crosspiece which joins the two ends, forming a frame. 
Fine hooked nails run along both sides of this rack, on 
which you hang the ends of the trims, letting the balance 
of the film fall into the bin. 

After you have finished a sequence the assistant rolls up 
these trims, marks them for identification, and puts them 
in metal cans which he then files away in special racks. 
When we want to make changes or use any part of the 
scene we have not already used, or if we want to lengthen 
a cut, we can always find the trims quickly. Now, you 
fasten the long shot and the medium shot together with 
a clip, in the same way that you fastened the long shot 
and the leader, and continue this process with each cut 
until you have assembled a full reel of scenes. 

The assistant takes the reel to the splicing room and 
splices each scene together with film cement. In making 
your cuts you have allowed exactly two sprockets, or half 
a frame, over the end of the picture and sound track and 
the beginning of the next scene and track for this pur- 
pose. The two ends are placed on the splicing machine in 
the grooves made for it, and the emulsion scraped off one 
side with a blade. The assistant puts a little cement on the 
scraped edge with a small brush, and quickly clamps down 
on it with the side of the machine holding die other scene. 



208 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

He holds down the machine a second, then releases it and 
a splice has been made. He must be careful to see that the 
frame line of one scene exactly fits the frame line of the 
next. Otherwise, when the film is projected, it will be 
thrown out of frame. He repeats this process all through 
the reel at every cut, replacing the clip with a splice. This 
work print, or rough cut, as it is called, is then ready for 
projection. We generally run it through alone first, to be 
sure that every scene is properly synchronized and to see 
whether we can improve any of the sequences. Sometimes 
we must recut certain scenes before showing the film to 
the director and producer. Then, after recutting it, we 
run it for them in the studio projection room, and they 
give their criticisms and suggest any changes. At this point 
the director expresses any effects he would like to accom- 
plish through the editing. The conference over, we take 
the film back to the cutting room, and again go through 
it and recut it. We do this until all agree that the picture 
feels right. Now it is ready for the final stages before 
being previewed in a local theater. 

The various devices used in films for bridging time 
lapses or marking transitions between scenes, such as fades, 
dissolves and wipes, must be inserted here. A fade-out is 
used at the end of a sequence to denote a lapse of time or 
a complete change of thought. It is made in the laboratory 
by a chemical process used on the negative, which literally 
fades the scene off the film at the place indicated by the 
cutter, and leaves the film black for whatever footage we 
may require. This same process, when used for the begin- 
ning of a sequence, is called a fade-in. Here the process 
is reversed: die film starts as black and clears until the 
image becomes distinct. The two processes are always used 



CUTTING THE FILM 209 

together: when you fade-out on a sequence, you always 
fade-in on the following sequence. 

Dissolves, wipes and all trick shots are made by the 
special-effects department. In a dissolve, the scene you 
are entering is blended over the scene you are leaving. 
This may run from four to twenty feet, depending on the 
desired effect. The majority of dissolves are from four to 
six feet long. To illustrate: you might start with a full 
figure of Cinderella dressed in rags and dissolve over this 
her image dressed as a princess. There would be a few feet 
in which both figures are seen simultaneously, but the ef- 
fect would be that of the princess emerging from the poor 



A wipe or wipe-off is a device used to shift action from 
one scene to another or from one location to another 
within the area of a single frame. For instance, a person 
may walk out of a scene, moving from left to right. In the 
next scene, he might enter a room far from the last. But 
he would be moving in the same direction, because the 
special-effects department would give the effect of the 
first scene wiping out from the left to the right and the 
second scene moving in in the same direction. If a person 
is going up in a building, the wipe would move from the 
bottom of the screen to the top, or vice versa if the per- 
son were coming down. There are many kinds of wipes, 
f an 'wipes and angle nvipes being two of die most common. 
They are all made by using masks in front of the film. 
Any other trick shots would be made by the special-effects 
department. 

We always have printed tides on film of whatever 
effect, such as a fade, wipe or dissolve, we wish to cut 
into die picture. These are temporarily spliced into the 
picture at the designated pkces on the film. At this point, 



210 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 



also, any inserts, which are objects used to symbolize a 
thought or idea to help express the story, such as letters, 
newspaper clippings, clocks, etc., are cut into the picture. 
When we feel that our working print is really right, and 
all effects have been made and inserted, we send the film 
to the laboratory where the negative is cut to match our 
working print. Now a new print is made from this nega- 
tive, which we call the -feeler print. 

Now we are ready for the dubbing or re-recording. 
Here we add any sound effects which were not included 
when the scene was shot, either because we did not have 
those effects or it was better not to record them at the 
rime. Music is also added at this point to whatever scenes 
are considered necessary. In some studios there are sound 
cutters, who do much of the work of assembling the vari- 
ous sound tracks. In other studios the editor does this work 
himself. 

Perhaps a battle scene might best illustrate a difficult 
phase of dubbing, such as the Battle of Acre in The Cru- 
sades. When the scenes were originally made, only the 
dialogue and a few minor sounds were recorded. This 
track was then synchronized with the picture. Now the 
following sounds were added: the fire balls whizzing 
through the air and finally hitting some object or person, 
the creak of the heavy wooden war implements, the cries 
of the men when hit, the screams of the horses, the hiss 
of hot oil being poured down the walls, the sound of the 
arrows being shot and hitting, the sound of men's feet and 
horses stampeding, and music through the entire batde. 
Eight separate tracks were necessary for this re-recording. 
Each of these tracks is then taken to the sound depart- 
ment to a separate sound-recording machine or dummy. 
In the dubbing or re-recording room a crew of about 



CUTTING THE FILM 211 

four men or more work at a desk where the mixing is 
done. The editor, sometimes the director or producer, and 
the musical director assigned to the picture also work with 
the sound men. In this room the picture is projected on a 
screen and a sound horn conveys all these tracks simul- 
taneously. The sound expert works his various mixing 
dials, increasing or subduing the sounds until a general 
agreement has been reached. This combination of tracks 
is now re-recorded on to a master track, which is the 
track that goes into the finished picture and is heard 
by the audience in the theater. 

A simpler illustration of re-recording is shown in the 
musical comedy This Way Please. A roof garden and pent- 
house on top of a theater were featured in the picture. 
Some of the scenes were photographed on the roof of a 
building in Los Angeles, to give the feeling of height. All 
dialogue recorded in these scenes naturally included the 
traffic and street noises from below, and these could not 
be eliminated. A replica of this roof was subsequently built 
on the studio stage where the musical numbers were made, 
which could not possibly have been shot on the roof of 
the downtown building. When the picture was cut and 
ready for dubbing, the track containing the street and traf- 
fic noises was brought in. The songs and music could be 
given a much clearer recording by this method, and the 
downtown noises became secondary. Only three dubbing 
channels were needed for this mixing. 

When the sound has been re-recorded on to the master 
track the negative is recut using the new track, and a print 
is made at die laboratory which is now ready to run at 
the theater for a preview. This is called the first preview 
print. Some of the executives and technical staff, includ- 
ing the cutter, go to the preview and watch the audience 



212 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

reaction to see where the picture interests and where it 
drags, where the comedy is good and where it fails to get 
a laugh. 

The average picture runs in length from about six thou- 
sand three hundred feet up to twelve thousand feet, which 
has been selected from a total footage of about a hun- 
dred thousand feet. A light comedy or drama might run 
about six thousand feet. The more dramatic or spectacular 
story or musical runs on an average of between nine thou- 
sand and ten thousand five hundred feet. Very few run 
higher. There are exceptions, of course. The King of 
Kings ran twelve thousand feet, The Sign of the Cross 
about eleven thousand. At a sneak preview we will show 
a picture which should run about six thousand feet in 
about seven thousand feet, and judge what to eliminate by 
the reaction of the audience. 

After the preview a conference is called and the picture 
is discussed, with the audience reaction in mind, to see 
what eliminations should be made and how the weak points 
may be strengthened. Sometimes it is considered beneficial 
to retake some of the scenes, but that is only in extreme 
cases. If this is necessary, the cutter goes through the pic- 
ture again and prepares it for a second preview. Few pic- 
tures are previewed more than twice. Occasionally, how- 
ever, the producer may feel it necessary to have more than 
two previews, at entirely different locations, usually in 
small towns. 

Eliminations after the preview may result in that phe- 
nomenon known as the "face on the cutting room floor." 
Sometimes a very good character actress or bit player 
may just happen to be in one or two sequences which 
need to be eliminated because they are not sufficiently in- 
teresting to include in the picture. Sometimes the perform- 



A cutter runs the picture at 
right, and the sound track at 
left, through the Moviola. The 
round disc o~cer the picture 
track is a magnifying lens. The 
sound comes through the loud- 
speaker above. (Courtesy of 
Metro - Goldixyn - May er Pic- 
tures.) 




Two -film cutters examining the sound track before splicing It. 




CUTTING THE FILM 213 

ance of an actor or actress is very bad; then we use every 
possible method to cut him or her out of the scene. This 
can be done either by using close-ups of other characters 
in the scene or by using any shots in which the actor did 
not appear. Or we may try to cut out portions of the 
scenes which were bad. Our method depends entirely on 
how much material the director has given us. This makes 
me repeat that the director who overshoots, or takes more 
material than would seem necessary at the time, stands a 
better chance of having a good picture in the end. 

Quite often we find that a sequence or scene is much 
too talky or too long for the phase of the story it should 
express. If the director has shot a number of different 
angles and individual close-ups for the scene, it is much 
easier to eliminate lines and words of a sentence from the 
sound track. If we want to cut on a close shot of a group 
of people, we can cut to a longer shot further down in 
the scene, and by this means we can drop whatever lines 
are superfluous. However, if the action has changed much 
in that interval, such a cut is bad, because it will not 
match the previous scene. For example, if one character 
has crossed to the other side of the room during the elimi- 
nated portion, the first scene of the whole group followed 
by the second will give the effect of a jump. If the director 
has provided us with close-ups of the different characters, 
we can cut to a close-up of a character either listening or 
reacting to a line spoken just ahead of the one we want 
to eliminate. In this case we can either jump our sound 
track to where we again start the dialogue, after the cut, 
or put a piece of silent track (which every cutter has on 
hand) over the close-up, and then, when we go back to 
our group shot, pick it up at whatever point we wish. 

Sometimes we find that an actor has said one incorrect 



214 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

word in a sentence, or that a line would sound much bet- 
ter if a word were changed. To remake the scene would 
be costly and take too much time. Instead we have the 
actor who spoke the line make a new recording with the 
changed word. This is called a 'wild track. Now we do 
not replace the entire sentence, because this would not 
synchronize with the scene. Instead we merely replace the 
word. It is now impossible to detect the change. 

This became necessary in a scene from The Plainsman. 
A crowd of people were haranguing Calamity Jane, be- 
cause they felt she had betrayed the soldiers' route to the 
Indians. One man spoke the line, "Only eight men out of 
forty came back." This scene was made before the battle. 
After the battle was shot, it was decided to have eighteen 
men survive instead of eight. To remake the scene with 
the crowd would have cost many thousands of dollars. 
So the actor who had spoken the line was called in, and 
he reread it as eighteen instead of eight. At first we thought 
we could merely add the "teen" to the original eight, but 
this was impossible, as the space on the track was limited. 
We finally cut the words "eight men" from the original 
track and replaced them with the word "eighteen," so 
that the line now read, "Only eighteen out of forty came 
back." In another instance I added the letter s to die end 
of a word which the actor had forgotten, because it 
changed the meaning of the sentence. 

And now that the editor's job is over, he hopes that he 
has told the story as effectively as possible, within the 
framework of the script, so that the audience will be ut- 
terly unaware of his work. The story should flow smoothly 
and the various shots should match perfectly. Unusual 
angles should not be employed merely for their own in- 
terest, unless they are effective in telling the story. The 



CUTTING THE FILM 215 

moment the audience is aware of the various cuts and de- 
vices used, the story will suffer* 

We must reinterpret the material given us by the direc- 
tor so that the strips of film will assume a rhythmic flow. 
Our work is highly individual; no two editors work alike. 
We must rely on our instinct and previous experience to 
create the pattern. We must maintain the whole greater 
than the sum of its parts. If the film is poorly cut, the 
whole sense of the story is lost. If it is well cut, the 
effectiveness of the story will be considerably increased 
and it will possess a new unity which would otherwise 
exist in the director's mind alone. 



XIV 

SCORING THE FILM 

Max Sterner 



MUSIC has probably had the most hectic career, not 
excepting sound, of all mediums which combine to 
make a morion picture. 

The present use of music in heightening the emotion of 
a film was borrowed directly from the elaborate orchestral 
accompaniment in motion-picture theaters during the silent 
days. No theater was too small to hire a regular orchestra. 
But with the advent of talking pictures, recorded music, 
both vocal and instrumental, was used sparingly at first, 
as was the dialogue. In some instances an entire picture 
would be silent, and suddenly in the fourth or fifth reel 
someone would burst into song, as in The Pagan Love 
Song. The theater orchestra still played the accompani- 
ment up to the time the sound track was used, leading up 
to the particular key in which the song was being played. 
Then, as soon as the recorded music was over, the or- 
chestra would start playing again, leading away from it 
gracefully. 

A year or so prior to that time, the Vitaphone short sub- 
jects came into vogue. In these, a large orchestra of sym- 
phonic strength was assembled and photographed while 
recording the music. In some instances, close-ups of the 
players were shot, and vocalists added. These photo- 

216 



SCORING THE FILM 217 

graphed orchestra novelties would then be shown instead 
of comedies, scenic subjects or cartoons. 

The economic distress in which musicians found them- 
selves after the advent of talking pictures was somewhat 
counteracted by a miniature gold rush to California. Well- 
known musicians and orchestra leaders were brought to 
Hollywood, and the march of recorded pictures began in 
earnest. 

For reasons which I will later explain, there was very 
little underscoring (background music) in those days, but 
chiefly main and end titles (opening and closing music). 
Recorded music was deemed necessary only for musical 
productions, such as Rio Rita, The Street Singer, The 
Rogue Song and Vagabond Lover. 

Almost insurmountable difficulties confronted musicians 
in those days in successfully transferring even a small part 
of the actual sound on to the sound track. The reasons 
were numerous: Producers and directors did not know 
how to handle music; sound men and musicians were in- 
experienced; the microphone was in its infancy; and, 
therefore, the entire technical staff went into contortions 
to reproduce, even in part, what was actually heard on the 
set. 

I remember, during the filming of a certain picture, that 
it took us two days to find a suitable spot for die double 
bass, as the acoustical conditions on the stage were such 
that every time the bass pkyer touched his instrument the 
sound track would overshoot (distort or blur). This ex- 
perience with the entire company actors, singers and 
musicians on the set, cost the company seventy-five thou- 
sand dollars. 

At that period the musicians were required to play very 
sofdy. The modern recording orchestra, however, plays 



21 8 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

in a normal tone, and through the use of special micro- 
phones a great part of the orchestra balance is now ma- 
neuvered by the recordist. 

In the old days one of the great problems was standard 
(actual) recording, as dubbing or re-recording was un- 
known at that time. It was necessary at all times to have 
the entire orchestra and vocalists on the set day and 
night. This was a huge expense when one considers that 
a musician was, and still is, paid thirty dollars for three, 
and fifty dollars for six, hours' recording, with half-pay 
for rehearsals. But because of inexperience and the very 
undeveloped technique of sound it was impossible to work 
fast. Many rehearsals and many recordings (takes) were 
necessary before a satisfactory result could be obtained. 
I have known of instances where one short number, of 
two or three minutes' duration, would take two days to 
record. As sound technique gradually improved, this loss 
of dine was considerably lessened, until it became so far 
advanced that today a three-minute number can easily 
be recorded in one hour or less, if properly rehearsed and 
balanced (which, of course, must still be done carefully). 

At this time, music for dramatic pictures was only used 
when it was actually required by the script. A constant 
fear prevailed among producers, directors and musicians, 
that they would be asked: Where does the music come 
from? Therefore they never used music unless it could be 
explained by the presence of a source like an orchestra, 
piano player, phonograph or radio, which was specified 
in the script. 

To get back to musical pictures: The success of the 
early musicals like Broadway Melody, Rio Rita, The Street 
Singer and The Rogue Song, caused every company to 
concentrate on the production of this type of picture, and 



SCORING THE FILM 2 19 

fabulous salaries were paid to singers and musicians. It 
was prosperity at its peak for the chosen few; but, even 
as at present, the cycle of musicals was OVERPRODUCED. 
Through lack of sufficient good material and the ever 
changing taste of a fickle public, musical picture after 
musical picture failed, and the studios decided to call it 
a day and go back to dramatic pictures. It therefore be- 
came unnecessary to maintain a large staff of musicians, 
and so in September, 1930, I received a letter telling me 
that the studio would not require our services any longer 
and to dismiss everyone not under contract. In most in- 
stances the studios even tried to buy up existing contracts. 
Musical activity in Hollywood was almost at a standstill. 

But in the spring of 1931, due to the rapid development 
of sound technique, producers and directors began to real- 
ize that an art which had existed for thousands of years 
could not be ruled out by "the stroke of a pen." They 
began to add a little music here and there to support love 
scenes or silent sequences. But they felt it necessary to 
explain the music pictorially. For example, if they wanted 
music for a street scene, an organ grinder was shown. It 
was easy to use music in night club, ballroom or theater 
scenes, as here the orchestras played a necessary part in 
the picture. 

Many strange devices were used to introduce the music. 
For instance, a love scene might take place in the woods, 
and in order to justify the music thought necessary to 
accompany it, a wandering violinist would be brought in 
for no reason at all. Or, again, a shepherd would be seen 
herding his sheep and playing his flute, to the accompani- 
ment of a fifty-piece symphony orchestra. 

Half of this music was still recorded on the set, causing 
a great deal of inconvenience and expense. Whenever the 



22O WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

director, after the completion of his picture, made any 
changes, or recut his film, the score was usually ruined 
as it was obviously impossible to cut the sound track with- 
out harming the underlying continuity of the music. Oc- 
casionally we were able to make cuts that were not too 
noticeable. 

At this time the process of re-recording was slowly 
being perfected, and we soon learned to score music after 
the completion of a picture. This had two advantages. It 
left the director free to cue his picture any way he pleased 
without hurting our work, and we were able to control 
the respective levels between dialogue and music, thereby 
clearing the dialogue. 

To go back to 1931: With re-recording being rapidly 
improved, every studio again began to import conductors 
and musicians. At the time, I was general musical director 
for RKO Studios. I wrote Symphony of Six Million, and 
Bird of Paradise soon after, the first of which had about 
40 per cent, and the latter 100 per cent musical scoring. 
Both pictures had been shot for music. The directors and 
producers wanted music to run throughout, and this grad- 
ual change of policy resulted in giving music its rightful 
chance. One-third to one-half of the success of these pic- 
tures was attributed to the extensive use of music. 

After that many pictures were completely scored, one 
of which was King Kong. This score I wrote in two weeks 
and the music recording cost was around fifty thousand 
dollars. The picture was successful and the studio again 
attributed at least 25 per cent of its success to the music, 
which made the artificially animated animals more life- 
like, the battle and pursuit scenes more vivid. After this 
other studios followed suit and began to score their pic- 
tures. At this time I wrote the music for The Lost Patrol, 



SCORING THE FILM 221 

directed by John Ford. Mr. Ford also directed The In- 
former, and he and I conferred on the use of music for 
this picture before it was shot. This was not the case 
with The Lost Patrol. At first it was not intended to have 
any music, but after the picture was finished the producer 
decided that, because of the long silent scenes, it was neces- 
sary to underscore the entire production. 

In order to explain the modern technique and procedure 
of composing, directing, and recording music for the 
screen, I will outline my way of scoring which may dif- 
fer to some extent from the systems adopted by composers 
and directors in other studios: but the fundamentals are the 
same. 

When a picture is finished and finally edited, it is turned 
over to me. Then I time it: not by stop watch, however, 
as many do. I have the film put through a special measur- 
ing machine and then a cue sheet created which gives me 
the exact time, to a split second, in which an action takes 
place, or a word is spoken, as in the following example: 

Excerpt from cue sheet of Reel III, Part I, of The In- 
former: (The music for this excerpt of cue sheet will be 
found on page 222.) 

MIN. SEC. FEET FRAMES 

CUE: The captain throws money on 

table o o 

1. Gypo grabs money and exits. . 20 30 

2. Door slams 26 39 

3. CUT to blind man 33 49 5 

4. Gypo grabs blind man's throat 41 61 6 

5. Gypo leaves him 58 87 

6. The blind man's step is heard. . i 5^ 97 7 

By comparing the respective timing, the reader will be 
able to discern the method of underscoring. The music for 




Cue sheet from The Informer. 

The numbers enclosed by black lines represent the number of 
seconds for each cue. The cues are written in long hand above 

the music. 



SCORING THE FILM 223 

each cue is timed exactly by the number of feet and extra 
frames and by the number of minutes and seconds each 
cue runs. 

While these cue sheets are being made, I begin to work 
on themes for the different characters and scenes, but with- 
out regard to the required timing. During this period I 
also digest what I have seen, and try to plan the music 
for this picture. There may be a scene that is played a 
shade too slowly which I might be able to quicken with 
a little animated music; or, to a scene that is too fast, I 
may be able to give a little more feeling by using slower 
music. Or perhaps the music can clarify a character's emo- 
tion, such as intense suffering, which is not demanded or 
fully revealed by a silent close-up, as, for instance, the 
scene in The Charge of the Light Brigade, where Enrol 
Flynn forges the order sending six hundred to their death. 

After my themes are set and my timing is completed, I 
begin to work. I run the picture reel by reel again, to 
refresh my memory. Then I put my stop watch on the 
piano, and try to compose the music that is necessary for 
the picture within the limits allowed by this timing. For 
instance: For fifteen seconds of soldiers marching, I may 
write martial music lasting fifteen seconds. Then the pic- 
ture might cut to a scene at a railroad track, which lasts 
for six seconds, when I would change my music accord- 
ingly or let it end at the cut. Once all my themes are set 
I am apt to discard them and compose others, because 
frequently, after I have worked on a picture for a little 
while, my feeling towards it changes. 

Having finally set my themes I begin the actual and 
tedious work of composing according to my cue sheets, 
endeavoring to help die mood and dramatic intent of the 
story as much as possible. The great difficulty lies in the 



224 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

many cuts (sections; different locations) which make up 
a modern motion picture. For example; The first two min- 
utes on my imaginary cue sheet consist of the arrival of 
a train in some little town. I would use music that con- 
forms with the pounding of the locomotive, a train 
whistle or the screeching of the brakes, and perhaps some 
gay music to cover the greetings of people getting on and 
off the train. After these two minutes, the picture cuts 
directly to the death bed of the father in a little attic in 
an outlying farmhouse, the scene lasting three minutes in 
all. I must, therefore, devise some method of modulating 
quickly and smoothly from the gay music in the station 
to the silence and tragedy in the death room. These two 
scenes would consume five minutes of the ten-minute reel, 
and at the point of the father's death we might cut di- 
rectly to a cabaret in New York where the daughter is 
singing, not knowing that her father is dead. Here is a 
transition which I would not modulate at all. Instead, 
it would be very effective to let a hot jazz band bang right 
in as soon as the cut, or short fade, to the cabaret was 
completed. 

There is nothing more effective in motion-picture music 
than sudden changes of mood cleverly handled, providing, 
of course, they are consistent with the story. During this 
cabaret scene, while the jazz orchestra is playing, if the 
daughter is notified of her father's death, it would be ab- 
solutely wrong to change from the hot tune in progress 
to music appropriate to her mood. We must consider the 
jazz orchestra as actual music, not as underscoring; and, 
in order to make this sequence realistic, we should contrive 
to make the music as happy and noisy as possible. For, in 
the first place, the orchestra leader does not know what 
has happened, and would, therefore, have no reason to 



SCORING THE FILM 225 

change his music; and, second, no greater counterpoint 
has ever been found than gay music underlying a tragic 
scene, or vice versa. The latter, of course, applies only if 
the audience is aware of tragedy taking place unknown to 
the players. 

Standard symphonic music, such as Beethoven's Eroica, 
should not be used in its entirety for the same reasons 
stated in my last paragraph. The change of locale and 
cutting back and forth make it almost impossible. For 
example, if I were to use a funeral march from the Eroica, 
however well it might fit the scene and mood, if the pic- 
ture cut on the twelfth bar to a cabaret in the Bronx, what 
would I do with the funeral march by Beethoven? I would 
have to rewrite, discontinue or break it up in some way, 
and I, for one, am loath to recompose die old masters. 

Furthermore, it is my conviction that familiar music, 
however popular, does not aid the underlying score of a 
dramatic picture. I believe that, while the American peo- 
ple are more musically minded than any other nation in 
the world, they are still not entirely familiar with all the 
old and new masters' works. I am, therefore, opposed to 
the use of thematic material that might cause an audience 
to wonder and whisper and try to recall the tide of a 
particular composition, thereby missing the gist and sig- 
nificance of a whole scene which might be the key to the 
entire story. Of course there are many in our industry who 
disagree with my viewpoint. 

In composing a score there are certain facts which I 
have found important to consider. For instance, it pays to 
watch the particular pitch in which a person talks. A high 
voice often becomes "muddy," with high-pitched musi- 
cal accompaniment, and the same is true of the low pitch. 
I rarely combine these except when I want to attain a 



226 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

special effect, such as matching voice and orchestra so that 
one is indistinguishable from the other. 

The speed of the dialogue is also of great importance 
to the modern motion-picture composer. Fast music, over 
a slow dialogue scene, may help to speed up the action, 
but it may also ruin the mood, whereas slow music, over a 
slow scene, may either fit admirably or retard the action to 
an unprecedented extent. I rarely use fast music over fast 
dialogue. Instead I try to punctuate a fast-moving dra- 
matic scene with music which seems to be slower, but 
which, in reality, approximates the same speed. 

Pronounced high solo instruments or very low ones, or 
sharp or strident effects (oboe, piccolo, muted trumpets, 
screaming violins, xylophone, bells, high clarinets, and 
muted horns fortissimo) are taboo with me, because we 
should be able to hear the entire combination of instru- 
ments behind the average dialogue. But I have found muted 
strings, harp, celeste and low woodwind effects to be suc- 
cessful. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule, and 
in many of my pictures I have broken it entirely. 

In fact, by now, the reader may well ask: What's the 
matter with Steiner? In one paragraph he gives advice and 
sets down a rigid rule, and in the next he reverses it. That 
is true . . . there are no rules, and there won't be as long 
as music continues to assume more and more importance 
in pictures, and the development of sound continues to 
make such rapid strides. 

When the music has been composed and orchestrated, 
the orchestra assembles on a sound stage, especially treated 
for acoustics. The modern music-recording stage has soft 
and hard flats (panels) which can be moved around the 
stage on rollers at will to accommodate the different or- 
chestral and vocal sounds produced. The reason for the 
flexibility of these flats is die varying sizes of orchestras 



SCORING THE FILM 227 

and choruses required to score a motion picture. Natu- 
rally, inside a theater an orchestra has a different tone 
quality than it would have out-of-doors; and, by the same 
token, a singer in a fairly small room would sound en- 
tirely different than the same singer in a large concert 
hall. In order to reproduce these tone qualities as closely 
as possible, these flats are moved around either to reduce 
or enlarge the size of the tone space required. Often these 
flats are not used at all, particularly when the orchestra or 
chorus is very large. 

The monitor booth is usually located on the first floor, 
out of everyone's way. That is the room in which the 
recordist sits and manipulates the various dials (channels) 
which combine the different microphones and thereby pro- 
duce the final orchestra sound track. This recordist, in 
most instances, is himself a former musician, or at least a 
person who has great interest in music. His work is tedi- 
ous and of great responsibility, because of the enormous 
expense incurred during the recording of the picture, in- 
volving musicians' salaries and film expense. 

If one considers that the orchestra may have to do ten 
to twenty takes of the same number in order to get one 
good recording, one can imagine the time involved, not 
to speak of the thousands of feet of film needed. 

A good take can easily be spoiled by the noise of an 
overhead airplane. Many tines mail planes pursuing their 
duty swoop a little too low over the recording stage dur- 
ing a very tender violin solo; and, of course, this record- 
ing cannot be used, as the most modern microphones are 
extraordinarily sensitive. Also accidents occur, such as the 
scraping of a chair, the dropping of a mute or a bow, or 
even the scraping of a shirt button on a stand, the swish 
of music sheets being turned over, or an unavoidable 
cough. It is not always a wrong note or a conductor's 



228 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

mistake which causes a take to go wrong. Sometimes the 
projection machine freezes (gets out of order) and it may 
take fifteen or twenty minutes to repair. With a fifty- 
piece orchestra the expense is about two hundred and fifty 
dollars in unused salaries for this twenty-minute delay, as 
the musician gets paid from the time he is called until he 
leaves, whether he plays or not. 

To get back to our first rehearsal of a new picture: The 
orchestra is rehearsed a little more thoroughly than other 
orchestras, for the better an orchestra plays, the less takes 
will be required and the less money spent on salaries and 
film. During this rehearsal the recordist places his micro- 
phones according to the wishes of the conductor, who 
indicates what instruments or orchestra sections shall be 
specially emphasized or miked. Then, when this is accom- 
plished, while someone else conducts, the conductor goes 
upstairs to the booth to determine whether everything is 
to his liking. If it is, we then record our first take. Of 
course long association between recordists and conductors 
results in tremendous speed in balancing. I work with re- 
cordists whom I trust so implicitly that I rarely go up 
into the booth unless the recordist asks for advice, such 
as in the case of a special orchestral effect I wanted for 
the money theme in The Informer. 

After our first take, we play it back. That means a loud 
speaker plays back the record that has been made on a 
separate recording machine, but which reproduces exactly 
the same result as on the film itself. It stands to reason that 
we cannot replay an undeveloped film; for, first of all, 
the negative would be spoiled, and, second, we would 
need a dark room for unloading, loading and re-winding. 
Should this playback be satisfactory, we go into our next 
sequence; rehearsal again, and we proceed exactly as be- 



SCORING THE FILM 229 

fore. We make as many takes as necessary until we get a 
perfect recording. 

Each film is divided into sections of a thousand feet, and 
one such section is called a reel. A modern feature film con- 
sists of approximately nine to ten thousand feet. The latest 
projection machines in the theaters are able to run films of 
two thousand feet each, which are simply the first and 
second thousand-foot reel spliced together. However, the 
laboratories only develop thousand-foot reels. In record- 
ing music we divide a reel into as many sections as pos- 
sible, for it is much easier for musicians and conductor to 
remember a two-minute scene than a ten-minute one. 

In writing the music and recording it, great care must 
be taken by orchestra and conductor that the overlaps are 
properly handled, so that when the film is finally com- 
pleted die listener is not conscious of the "breaks." 

With our first day's recording over, we await the next 
morning with great expectation, or, shall I say . . . anx- 
iety . . . when the laboratory sends the developed and 
printed recordings back to the studio for us to hear and 
pick takes. We sometimes print two or three recordings 
of the same number to be on the safe side, and in some 
instances intercut from one to the other. For instance, in 
a composition of one hundred and twenty bars' duration, 
the first ninety bars may be perfect whereas the last thirty 
may have been spoiled by any one of the aforementioned 
factors. 

Our profession is not always "a bed of roses/' and looks 
much easier to the layman than it really is. The work is 
hard and exacting, and when the dreaded "release date" 
is upon us, sleep is a thing unknown. I have had stretches 
of work for fifty-six consecutive hours without sleep, in 
order to complete a picture for the booking date. The 



230 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

reason for this is the fact that the major film companies 
sell their pictures for a certain date before they have even 
been produced; and, if the film's final editing has been 
delayed through some unforeseen happening, the music and 
re-recording departments have to pitch in to make up for 
lost time. 

After we have picked our developed takes which have 
been returned by the laboratory, and providing every- 
thing is satisfactory, these takes are turned over to the 
music cutter and he synchronizes them to the film and 
dialogue track. When these tracks have finally been set up 
the entire film is taken up to the re-recording room. There 
both dialogue and music are mixed and regulated; again 
numerous takes are made; and impurities of the film and 
sound tracks are ironed out. These re-recording sessions 
are every bit as tedious and painstaking as the original 
recordings, since they constitute the final product. The 
next day, when these re-recorded takes come back from 
the laboratory, the same procedure of picking the best 
takes is followed. This time, of course, more attention is 
paid to the ratio between dialogue, music and sound effects. 

Then, some evening, the picture is given a sneak pre- 
view at some obscure theater, where only the highest ex- 
ecutives are allowed to witness its initial showing. The 
studio management thereby wishes to prevent any unfav- 
orable opinion from penetrating the papers before the final 
editing. Should the projection equipment have been in 
mediocre or very bad condition, the sound and music de- 
partments would be the butt of unfavorable criticism. 
Happily for us, all picture theaters, including the small 
neighborhood houses, are gradually buying or renting new 
first-class standard equipment. I think most of our troubles 
in that respect will be over in another year or so. 



SCORING THE FILM 231 

I have often been asked: What are the requirements 
that make for a competent film composer-conductor? I 
would answer: ability, good disposition, PATIENCE. A thou- 
sand and one things can happen to a music sound track 
from the time it leaves the composer's brain until it is 
heard by the audience. I have had pictures which did 
not require any music whatsoever, according to the pro- 
ducers. Some of these turned out to be 100 per cent 
underscoring jobs. On other pictures I was told that a 
certain film could not be released without an entire un- 
derscoring job, and I would work for weeks, day and 
night. When the finished product left the studio to go to 
the exchanges, only 60 per cent of all the music written 
remained. Many factors cause this: a bad preview reac- 
tion, very bad sound, the unfortunate presence of a di- 
rector or producer, who might still be opposed to the use 
of music throughout, or dialogue that may have been re- 
corded too softly at the outset, so that no music could be 
hearcl at the low level required to keep this dialogue in- 
telligible; 

In some instances a composer or musical director him- 
self may feel that music did not help a particular scene. 
This is not always easy to recognize in the studio projec- 
tion room because of the absence of any audience reac- 
tion. Besides, one who works close to a film is apt to get 
so used to the dialogue that he knows it by heart, and, 
therefore, do&> not miss any part of it during the multi- 
tude of runnings which are required to complete the job. 


Underscoring of musical pictures, apart from the actual 
performed songs, dances, or orchestral selections, is han- 
dled precisely like background music in dramatic pictures. 



232 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

But as far as the songs or dances are concerned, musical 
directors in the industry follow different methods. 

I will endeavor to explain my method of handling a 
musical picture by using as a specific illustration The Gay 
Divorcee, for which I directed, orchestrated and composed 
some of the music. 

Unlike dramatic pictures, songs to be used in a musical 
picture must, of course, be composed either while the 
script is being written or immediately upon its comple- 
tion. All songs that Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers sang 
were recorded on the set with the entire crew present: 
director, cameramen, make-up experts, chorus girls, elec- 
tricians, extras, etc., and some of them were accompanied 
by the orchestra I conducted a very difficult procedure 
when one considers that because of the camera set-ups my 
orchestra and I were sometimes as far as a hundred feet 
away from the soloists. On a big stage where sound might 
have traveled at the rate of about % sec,, I had to be a 
little ahead of Mr. Astaire's taps, or voice, to offset this 
so-called sound lag. Singers often became uneasy because 
they could not see me, and because of the lag that they 
sensed due to the great distance between the orchestra and 
themselves. 

Some of the songs were recorded with soft piano, i.e., 
a pkno with a muffler on it, which was used to keep the 
principals in tempo and on pitch. This was to be covered 
later by the proper orchestra accompaniment, the con- 
ductor listening through earphones to both voice and soft 
piano. Naturally, with both the first and second channels 
working in perfect synchronization, it was possible to join 
the loud piano track obtained by this second channel to 
the voice and soft piano, thereby giving the conductor a 



SCORING THE FILM 233 

loud accompaniment, which was somewhat easier to fol- 
low. 

By way of explanation: This sound microphone was 
placed so close to the soft piano's sounding-board that it 
naturally picked up only the sound of the piano, and 
could easily be eliminated when the orchestra accompani- 
ment was recorded. This method is still in vogue and is 
used almost universally when either the set-ups during the 
filming of a song change frequently or when the director 
or dance director is shooting off the cuff; i.e., when it is 
impossible to determine in advance what is to be done 
with the song or how much of it is to be used when the 
tempo is so rubato that a pre-recording is out of the ques- 
tion. 

Pre-recording means pre-scoring, pre-playing with an 
orchestra, piano, or whatever is required of the song or 
dance number to be used in the picture. This sound track 
is usually pre-recorded before the picture has even gone 
into production, and then re-recorded the same way as the 
soft piano would have been. What little sound has been 
picked up from these low-loud speakers (to which I shall 
hereafter refer as "horns"), if handled properly, should not 
be noticeable. 

I have always insisted on my music cutter syncing 
(matching) these tracks by the modulations visible on the 
film and not by sync marks. This is because sometimes 
even that very faint morsel of tone that has seeped through 
gives the regular pre-played orchestra sound track a 
phonograph-lie quality which is disturbing. However, if 
put in sync properly, this seems to disappear. For example: 
the singer sets his key with the musical director, and the 
routine is discussed with the director, or dance director; 
it is orchestrated and recorded on the proper music- 



234 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

recording stage with the respective soloists present. But 
he does not sing. Only the orchestra accompaniment is 
played, and I usually have the soloists go through the 
motions, or go up to the monitor booth and actually sing 
the song while I am playing it downstairs, simply to be 
sure that everything is satisfactory. It is obvious that were 
the performers to sing along with the orchestra on the 
same sound stage, the microphones would pick up the 
voices as well, and this would make the pre-recording track 
useless. This pre-scoring improvement was brought about 
through necessity. The soft piano and standard recording 
were cumbersome and unsatisfactory. A clever engineer 
invented a loud speaker that could be played so low that 
the new directional ribbon microphones could not pick 
up enough tone to spoil the track. These horns are placed 
as close as possible to the principals and they sing freely. 
The sound track can be stopped at will, and is played back 
either by special records (discs) to save time, or off the 
actual film on a special film playback machine. This low- 
loud speaker method has its points; but, like everything 
else in our world, it is not perfect. Any singer lacking ex- 
cellent pitch is always in danger of singing flat or sharp, 
as the case may be, through his inability to hear the ac- 
companiment distinctly. Also it seems rather hard to get 
an artist to give his best, and really let loose, with the 
music at a whisper when it should be lively and loud. 
However, I consider this method most advisable until 
something better turns up. 

There is one other way which is used extensively in 
musical pictures of a more operatic character. Here the 
pre-scoring is done with singer, chorus and orchestra to- 
gether. The singer then can sing with all the abandon 
necessary without fear of the camera and, in the case of 



SCORING THE FILM 235 

more serious music, I believe, this gives the best result. 

When this kind of pre-scoring is used, the track is 
played back also by horns, but at full power. The pic- 
ture is then photographed silently, the singer following 
his or her own voice as closely as possible. 

In many instances the singer will again sing his or her 
part while being photographed, while taking care to imi- 
tate as closely as possible his or her original rendition. 

With dancing the procedure is similar, but only neces- 
sary when the particular dance steps are audible, as in 
tap dancing, for example. This is also recorded by the 
low-loud speaker system, as in the case of Fred Astaire, 
because it later facilitates the clearing of the taps, and the 
lag between orchestra and dancer is likewise removed. This 
is unavoidable when standard recording is used. Some- 
times, however, loud playbacks are utilized and the pic- 
ture is shot silently just as in the aforementioned procedure 
when voices are to be recorded. 

As to composition: It is similar to musical comedy pro- 
cedure, or comic opera. There is no difference. For under- 
scoring we naturally paraphrase the actual songs used in 
the picture, and try to mold them neatly together to avoid 
the intrusion of music as much as possible. It is amazing 
what can be done in putting together long dance routines, 
such as the "Carioca," "The Continental" and "The Pic- 
colino." Each one of these dance routines was shot in short 
pieces, some of them not even eight bars long; then put 
together like a mosaic and freshly underscored, re-orches- 
trated, improved upon, then taps, sound, and vocal effects 
added. 

A very important requisite is the click or tempo track. 
These click tracks, as they are commonly called, are used 
universally in cartoon series such as Mickey Mouse, Silly 



236 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

Symphony, and Looney Tunes. These tempo tracks are 
filmed with every possible metronome tempo recorded on 
them. Conductor, orchestra and singer, while recording 
music for a cartoon, all wear earphones, usually only one, 
in order to leave one ear free to play on pitch. These 
tempo tracks even keep the players in exact time with the 
animation of the cartoon. These animations are drawn in 
frames to correspond with the exact bars of music to be 
used. I sometimes use this click track to guide me in 
long sequences, when the tempo is more or less unvary- 
ing, such as storm, train, racing, or battle sequences. Like 
the cartoon people, I simply decide on a tempo and then 
compute the frames into which the desired effects must 
enter, and write my music accordingly. 

It might not be amiss to mention the music-clearing 
procedure. All music is divided into two classifications: 
copyrighted and public domain. Public domain means 
music of unknown origin, unknown authorship, or music 
on which the copyright has expired. Music on which the 
copyright is still enforced must be purchased either di- 
rectly from the composer, or from his publisher. In order 
to facilitate this there is one central agency that has been 
set up in New York City, called the Music Publishers' 
Protective Association. This constitutes the clearing house 
for all music publishers and composers. 

There are certain compositions that are not available at 
all, such as the Gilbert and Sullivan operas. Up to this 
writing the Gilbert and Sullivan Estates have absolutely 
refused to perform their works on the screen for reasons 
best known to themselves, and there are many composers 
of the same mind. Then there are highly restricted com- 
positions, usually some number from a stage production 
which the producer, as co-owner of the copyright, is loath 



SCORING THE FILM 237 

to release for film use. He may still have hopes of being 
able to sell the entire "works" to some major film com- 
pany, and, therefore, does not wish to break up the com- 
plete score. 

Economic necessity is one of the principal reasons why 
a major picture company brings well-known composers 
out to Hollywood, as well as the desire to procure original 
music for new films. It stands to reason that if only pub- 
lished and copyrighted music were used, the cost of one 
hour's scoring would be prohibitive, as its usage must be 
paid for whether it lasts fifteen seconds or ten minutes. 
A circular inquiry was sent to all musical directors, asking 
for an opinion as to what time limit should be placed on 
one complete usage. Three minutes were suggested, and 
anything over this amount would constitute another usage. 
Therefore, should a number, song or orchestral selection, 
for instance, cost five hundred dollars for three minutes, 
three minutes and ten seconds would cost a thousand dol- 
lars. Because of this, almost all major picture concerns 
have direct affiliations with, or own, their own publishing 
house. The copyrights to the contract-composers' music 
are, of course, owned by the respective studios. An ex- 
ception of prior rights is made and already listed by the 
American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, 
if the composer is a member. 

The new wide range and ultra-violet recording has made 
it possible to reproduce faultlessly the entire range of the 
human voice from coloratura to basso profundo. Also, the 
orchestra range has been widened to such an extent that 
almost no limitations are placed upon the orchestrator or 
composer. (Very different from a few years ago when 
the low G on the double bass caused the most unpleasant 
consequences.) What is true of vocal reproduction is also 



238 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

true of orchestral color. It is becoming more and more 
"high-fidelity" (true to life) every day. I agree with Mr. 
Leopold Stokowski that the ultimate perfection is in sight. 
More than that, I believe, as he does, that the recorded 
music of the future will be made to sound, both in volume 
and quality, far better than is conceivable today. I further 
believe that the limit of music in pictures has not been 
reached and that, finally, opera and the symphonic field 
will find their rightful place in this great medium. 




A scene is tested for color. The camera is grinding while an attendant holds 

carious colored charts in front of Janet Gay nor and Andy Dei'ine. (Courtesy 

of Selznick-lnternational Pictures.) 



The Technicolor camera is about to photograph a scene on location in "A 
Star Is Born" The cameraman is just bringing the chip boards together to 
mark the synchronization between camera and so mid. The large screen of 
black cheesecloth or ^scrhrf" is used to diffuse the light on the players. Re- 
flectors on the side jj/iv additional light. (Courtesy of Sel-zjiick-lnter national 

Pictures.') 




XV 

DESIGNING FOR COLOR 

Lansing C. Holden 



TT7ITH THE increasing advances which have been 
V V made in the development of color pictures, a new 
job has been created that of the color designer. His func- 
tion is to supervise the sets, costumes and properties; he 
must plot the color scheme as a whole and for each indi- 
vidual scene; he must assure the most dramatic and har- 
monious use of color in the same way that a musical 
director supervises the score of a motion picture. The 
recent technical advances in the production of color pic- 
tures have given the color designer a much ydder scope 
in his use of this new means of expressioi^ We know 
from the past that we cannot use color as the eye sees it, 
because the human eye grasps a larger radius than the lens 
of a camera. Besides, in a dark theater with a jet-black 
frame, colors are increased in contrast; this concentration 
makes them seem even brighter than they are. 

Since colors which may seem natural to the eye often 
appear too brilliant and artificial when confined to a small 
screen, it is best to avoid colors which are too brilliant or 
harsh. The color designer should keep them subdued and 
soft in tone. In the early color pictures, the problem of 
recording colors was more important than their control. 
But now that the technical aspects have improved so 

239 



240 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

greatly, we can turn our attention to the use of color in 
enhancing the moods and dramatic structure of the motion 
picture. 

In designing the sets and costumes there are certain 
considerations which the color designer must recognize. 
The one key color present in every scene is the color of 
the face of the actor. The background must be governed 
by this consideration. It should be kept a cool, neutral 
color so that it will retreat behind the face, which is 
always warm. If the background is a warm color, such as 
a red or orange, it will advance and interfere with the 
face, which is the center of interest. For the center of 
interest must be the center of color. In painting, a land- 
scape of Corot's might lead the eye to a single spot of 
red on the bonnet of a peasant. But in a color picture, a 
single spot of color in the background or away from the 
center of interest would be disconcerting, particularly if 
it were out of focus. Nothing in the background should 
interfere with the dominating characters or the main action 
of the scene. 

When the color designer receives his copy of the script, 
he must plot the entire color scheme for the production. 
He must study the script to ascertain the mood of each 
scene, and concentrate his color on the key character in 
each scene. He must consult with the art director on the 
color of the sets, with the costume designer on the color 
of the costumes, and with the cameraman on the lighting 
to be employed. He first makes sketches in color of the 
scenes in which a particular effect is required, so that 
everyone connected with the production will have an 
idea of what is needed. Then he makes tests called material 
tests of a number of drapes. It is important to test these 
for texture as well, because some materials absorb too 



DESIGNING FOR COLOR 24! 

much light and others reflect too much. But these tests 
are hardly conclusive because a color photograph of a piece 
of cloth never gives the same effect as an actress wearing 
that cloth and walking through a scene. Besides, these tests 
are not taken under all the lighting conditions which will 
be used throughout the production. 

Background tests are also made for the most important 
scenes. Samples of woodwork, doors, carpets and drapes 
must be photographed so that they will have the correct 
color value. Here the experience of the color designer 
should help him in discarding many samples which would 
not be suitable, so that testing can be cut down to a 
minimum. 

In general, it is important to test the costumes of the 
principals, because the colors they wear will be the pre- 
dominating or foreground colors. The backgrounds must 
consequently be designed to set off the costumes of the 
principals. The color designer must know what actors, bit 
players and extras will appear in a given scene. He must 
make sure that the costumes of the minor players do not 
conflict with each other and with those of the principals. 
In a costume picture, where the clothes are designed, se- 
lected and rented in advance, it is easier to control the color 
schemes. But in a modern setting, in which the extras pro- 
vide their own clothes, the color director must continually 
be on the set to make last-minute changes in the ward- 
robe. Often he can plan the color combinations for one 
shot, but when the players present come in contact with 
others, he must consider the costumes of the others as well. 
For instance, if an actress appears in a blue dress in her 
most important scene and, similarly attired, she meets an 
actress in a purple dress in the next scene, the color de- 
signer must change the costume of the second actress to 



242 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

avoid a clash, even if another color is less becoming than 
purple to the second actress. 

There are certain hues, textures and kinds of material 
which when photographed on different actresses give a 
pleasing result. This is largely dependent on the individual 
coloring of the actress. But even if an actress looks well in 
a certain costume, this may not be suitable when repro- 
duced by the camera in a particular scene and under par- 
ticular lighting conditions. Co-operation between the 
cameraman and the color designer is therefore extremely 
important in a color picture. The designer must know the 
type of lighting used in every scene, so that he can discuss 
it with the cameraman. For example, if the script calls for 
a night scene in a dimly lit street, the principal should not 
be dressed in a dark green evening dress, because the 
cameraman would have difficulty in bringing her out in 
detail. She should have a costume which picks up low key 
lighting, such as silver lame. But if this costume were used 
in a brightly lit ballroom, it would give off halations and 
pick up too much light to show to its full advantage. In 
other words, a given costume can be beautiful under cer- 
tain lighting conditions, and it is the job of the color 
designer to plan so that the lighting and costumes will be 
effective for each scene and the backgrounds harmonious. 

In designing the sets and costumes, he should try to 
fit the mood of the story and build towards a climax. In 
general, color may be used like music to heighten the 
emotional impact of a scene. If the entire scheme of a 
picture is restrained so that there is little color in the early 
scenes, which are played mostly in shadow, then even 
moderately bright colors will give the effect of great bril- 
liance in the climax. This problem had to be solved in 
David O. Selznick's A Star is Born, in which in the early 



DESIGNING FOR COLOR 243 

scenes the costumes, sets, extras and bit players were de- 
signed in subdued colors, so that as the story of the young 
girl who wanted to become a movie actress moved from 
die North Dakota farmhouse to the rooming house in 
Hollywood, and then to her first screen test, tie contrast 
between the low and high key scenes became more marked, 
and once her success was established, the color reached its 
highest level. 

Another emotional use of color was the scene at the 
ball when the officers were suddenly called to war in 
Becky Sharp. Here the use of red lights on the officers 
helped to create the sense of impending doom. Color can 
undoubtedly be used to assist the mood of the story and 
to arouse emotion. But audiences should not be conscious 
of these various effects any more than they should be con- 
scious of incidental music in a dramatic scene. The danger 
in using color for emotion is that it looks like a trick. It 
is not so much the colors that evoke certain emotions but 
the way in which they are used which determines their 
emotional effect. Of course other considerations enter into 
the designing of sets and costumes to fit the mood of the 
story. For instance, if a director or editor decides to juxta- 
pose shots which were not planned in the original script, 
the designer has no recourse and the color mood may be 
lost. Or, if it is necessary for an actress to change her 
dress for the next scene, the color designer should be 
forewarned of last-minute changes so that the harmony 
will not be lost. 

In color pictures today, the designer must make sure 
that every attribute of the picture, each costume and each 
set appear natural to the eye and give the observer the 
feeling that he is standing in the room pictured. In other 
words, color on the screen must match the scenes we see 



244 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

in everyday life. We have accepted the convention of the 
black and white world of the screen, and now we must 
recondition ourselves to a closer approximation of our 
actual world. With this new tool comes a greater illusion 
of depth and of the third dimension. This is due to the 
fact that a cool color can recede, whereas a warm brilliant 
color can advance. The illusion of depth can be further 
obtained if a certain amount of color separation exists be- 
tween objects as they recede into the background. In this 
way the recognition of one object behind another is ob- 
tained and the illusion of depth increased. However, the 
color designer can only try for this effect because the 
feeling may be destroyed by an entirely different camera 
set-up. 

Scientists have been working on the idea of color pho- 
tography ever since Sir Isaac Newton, in 1666, opened the 
field with his discovery of the solar spectrum. One of the 
first results was his theory of the three primary colors. In 
1792, C. E. Wunsch established red, green and blue-violet 
as the three primary colors. We know that when a band 
of white light is passed through a prism it forms a band 
of various colors ranging from red through orange, yellow, 
green and blue through violet, known as the spectrum. 
Each color in the spectrum has a definite wave length. 
White light consists of a uniform mixture of waves of 
different lengths. These waves are affected by the prism 
so that they are extended in a band in which the shortest 
waves are at one end and the longest at the other. 

An object is colored because it absorbs some part of 
white light. Since white light is composed of blue, green 
and red light, blue light is white minus green and red 
light, and a blue object is one which absorbs both red and 
green light and reflects the blue light. In the same way, 



DESIGNING FOR COLOR 245 

green is white minus red and blue light, and a green ob- 
ject is one which absorbs the red and blue and reflects 
the green light. And, similarly, a red object is white minus 
blue and green light, and a red object is one which ab- 
sorbs both blue and green light and reflects the red light. 
The light absorbed by an object may be said to be com- 
plementary to that reflected by it, so that blue is comple- 
mentary to red and green light, which is yellow; green 
is complementary to blue and red light, which is known 
as magenta; and red is complementary to blue and green 
light, known as blue-green or cyan. 

In 1861 Clerk Maxwell showed that all colors may be 
formed by mixing light of the three primary colors in 
various proportions. He took three photographs, one 
through a red, one through a green and one through a 
blue solution. Then he made positives of these three nega- 
tives on lantern slides, which he projected one on top of 
another by three lanterns, each of which was projected 
through its original taking solution on to a screen. He 
thus obtained die original colored image, and any other 
desired color, by adjusting the separate beams. He found 
that added red and green beams of light produce yel- 
low, added green and blue-violet produce blue-green, and 
all the colors together produce white. This was the 
basis for the additive method of photography, in which 
three negatives are made through three color filters, and 
from these, three positives are made and projected through 
filters similar to those through which the negatives were 
exposed. This method was the one first used in obtaining 
colored motion pictures. 

One of the earliest additive methods was the persistence- 
of -vision-method, first suggested for motion pictures by 
H. Isensee in 1897. The basis of all motion-picture projec- 



246 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

tion is the fact that a picture formed on the retina persists 
for a short time and, if a succeeding series of images is 
formed in a short time thereafter, the result will be a 
composite in which the individual movements can no 
longer be distinguished. This applies to color as well. If 
red is projected, followed by green, before the red has a 
chance to fade from the retina, the green is superimposed 
and the resultant color in the brain will be yellow. If blue- 
violet is added the same way, the result will be white. The 
disadvantages in this persistence-of-vision-method are: first, 
that the rapid succession of colored images causes some 
eyestrain, called color-bombardment. Second, under this 
method, it is impossible to get a perfect composite result. 
For example, if successive pictures were taken of a man 
raising his arm above his head, we would see him in red 
in one arm position, in green in another and in blue- 
violet in a third, so that we would have color fringes and 
the images would not be correctly registered. 

Another additive method, the simultaneous projection 
method, was tried, in which three juxtaposed lenses, each 
filtered with one of the three primary colors, take and 
project the pictures. Here the film must travel three pic- 
tures at each exposure if the lenses are placed one above 
another, and if placed side by side triple-width film must 
be used. The excessive rate of speed of projection by the 
vertical lenses shortens the life of the film, because of 
severe strain. G. A. Smith in 1907 devised a system, known 
as Kinemacolor, in which alternating pictures were taken 
and projected through a rotating shutter with red and 
green sectors. This method was handicapped by color- 
bombardment and the necessity of having special register- 
ing devices to keep the pictures superimposed. 

All these additive methods proved impractical because 



DESIGNING FOR COLOR 247 

they required special projection equipment in the theaters, 
and theater-owners felt there was not a sufficient quantity 
of color films to warrant the installation. Scientists con- 
sequently set about discovering some method which would 
eliminate special devices, and by means of which a color 
picture could be projected in the same way as a black 
and white movie. The subtractive method was the solution. 
In this the film is a complete color record in itself, and it 
has the added advantage of not cutting down the amount 
of projection light by using filters, as the three-color addi- 
tive methods did. In the subtractive method, the operator 
can switch from color to black and white without appre- 
ciable loss of light and without special devices for regis- 
tering or projection. 

The most successful subtractive method to date is the 
Technicolor method, which was invented in 1914 by a 
firm of Boston engineers, Dr. Herbert Kalmus, Daniel 
Frost Comstock and W. B. Westcott. Their first experi- 
ments were with a two-color additive process, but they 
soon abandoned this in favor of a two-color subtractive 
method. In this, two gelatin reliefs, produced on thin cellu- 
loid, were glued together back to back and dyed in com- 
plementary colors. Douglas Fairbanks made The Black 
Pirate by this process in 1926. In 1928, the Technicolor 
engineers devised an imbibition process which consists of 
the transfer of the dye image from a gelatin relief or 
matrix to a gelatin film, and between 1929 and 1930 On 
'with the Show, Gold Diggers of Broadway, The Mysteries 
of the Wax Museum, and many others were made. 

But the two-color process was abandoned because it 
could not adequately reproduce the spectrum. In trying 
to compensate for blue, the missing primary, most colors 
were distorted and both red and green were exaggerated. 



248 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

It was not until 1932 that the spectral colors could be 
finally reproduced. 

In the Technicolor camera three negatives are exposed 
simultaneously through a single lens. This is accomplished 
by a beam splitter made of two prisms of optical glass with 
silver-sputtered faces which produce a partially reflecting 
mirror. By this means, part of the light reflects through an 
aperture at the left of the lens, and the remainder passes 
through the normal aperture. A single Super X panchro- 
matic film is exposed through this aperture behind a green 
filter, transmitting green light- Through the left aperture 
is passed a standard bipack (two films with their emulsion 
surfaces in contact), the front film being sensitive to blue, 
and carrying a red-orange dye which absorbs the blue rays 
so that only the red rays are affected by the rear emulsion. 

When die three negatives have been developed, each 
must be printed in its appropriate color and the three-color 
images must be assembled on a single strip of film, and 
superimposed on one another in exact register. The Tech- 
nicolor camera uses the imbibition method of printing. 
The three gelatin reliefs or matrices are each dyed with 
their complementary colors. The dye is then transferred 
onto another film strip which receives their images one 
above the other and contains a faint key image in gray 
silver to aid in registration and definition. The sound 
track has also been printed on the same positive film in 
silver. 

The Technicolor camera can now reproduce both the 
color and light and shade of the scene to be photographed. 
Of course, it cannot reproduce the range of sensitivity of 
the eye any more than painting can. The ratio of the 
eye's range from the brightest white to the darkest black 
is about one to thirty-two. The range of contrast in color 



DESIGNING FOR COLOR 249 

transparencies is twice as great, about one to sixty-four. 
Both painting and photography seek to reproduce a great 
range of visual contrasts by the more limited contrasts 
available. In general, it may be said that whatever cannot 
be painted cannot be photographed. For example, if a color 
designer visualized a brilliant shaft of light in a particular 
scene, that shaft of light could be made no more brilliant 
in a motion picture than if it were painted on canvas. For 
the photographer, like the artist, is working with pigments 
also. And if the artist could not achieve the brilliance of 
that shaft of light, then neither could the photographer. 

The difficulties of the color designer are similar to those 
of the painter and the stage designer. The painter must 
also work with a limited range of contrasts, but he differs 
from the color designer in having an unlimited choice of 
composition and in not having to subordinate all color to 
the center of interest. The stage designer, on the other 
hand, works with light so that his selection of sets and 
costumes must be harmonious from many different angles 
beyond his control. He may add more light to a given 
color to intensify his effect, but the color photographer 
cannot do this because it would mean overexposure of that 
one color, which would begin to affect the other negatives 
as well. So the color designer must work within the limited 
range of color photography and face the fact that the 
composition of moving images is difficult to control. 

The color designer uses all the theories of painting in 
the selection of colors and backgrounds for a motion pic- 
ture. Once the painter has established the background, fore- 
ground and intermediate distances, he has established a 
static relationship between them which does not change. 
But those colors in the painting which were good in their 
intensities and relative areas may become very disturbing 



250 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

when they move into a different composition, or into a 
series of different compositions, as in a motion picture. 
For instance, if the cameraman cuts to a close shot, the 
larger area of a particular color may not be as pleasing 
as in the long shot, where it occupied only a small area 
of the total picture. 

The cameraman's problem is to try to achieve the neces- 
sary light levels with as few sources of illumination as 
possible. The most favorable type of lighting for Techni- 
color is the arc lamp, in preference to the incandescent 
tungsten lamp which is used for black and white photog- 
raphy. The arc lamp gives greater light in fewer units, 
much less heat, and a more correct balance of the blue and 
red rays. Formerly much greater lighting intensities were 
necessary and only a universal flat fighting could be used. 
The number of lights used to photograph Becky Sharp in 
1935 would be cut down one-half today. Fewer and bet- 
ter sources of illumination produce shadows and proper 
modeling. While flat or soft lighting may occasionally give 
pleasing effects, it should not be used for color photog- 
raphy, which requires a more careful balancing of shadows 
than black and white photography, because in the shaded 
areas the color values change, and all shadow detail may be 
lost. It is easier to keep parts of the set in a low key by 
keeping light away from them than to illuminate parts with 
more light which have been painted dark. In exteriors, col- 
ors must be designed darker because there is so much more 
light to contend with. Here the difference between color 
and black and white is even greater because color can 
reproduce contrasts of sky, water, trees and foliage more 
effectively. The cameraman must be careful to schedule 
his shots so that the difference in color between morning 
and late afternoon shadows will not be too great. 



DESIGNING FOR COLOR 251 

Trick effects can be done just as effectively in color as 
in monochrome. Fades, lap dissolves and wipe-offs can all 
be made by duping all three negatives and preserving the 
proper balance of exposure and register. Process shots using 
a projection background have not yet been successfully 
done on a large scale, because of the necessity of greater 
illumination for the projection screen. 

The chief problem in make-up for color pictures is to 
achieve a natural effect. Heavy orange grease paint, which 
photographs naturally in black and white, cannot be used 
in color. The most recent type of make-up retouches any 
imperfections of contour or texture which were exagger- 
ated in the early color pictures. This is no heavier than 
an ordinary street make-up, but it improves the natural 
coloring of the actor. 

The demand for verity in color is the most dominant 
factor in color photography today. Perhaps as color pro- 
gresses and begins to enter into every motion picture, the 
time will come when the color designer will be able to 
experiment with other than purely naturalistic effects, such 
as those achieved by Renoir and C6zanne, for example. 
Then it may be possible to get away from a literal trans- 
lation of life, and design masques and mystery stories with 
imaginative color schemes. The convention of mono- 
chrome is certainly unreal, yet it is accepted by every per- 
son who sees a motion picture. Why, then, cannot audi- 
ences accept new uses and combinations of color? 

There is no doubt that color is here to stay, that it is 
as important an element in motion pictures as sound or 
music. How soon color will become all-prevalent we can- 
not predict; perhaps in another year, perhaps not before 
several years. That depends on the quality of the color 
productions, which in turn stimulate the audience's desire 



252 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

for color. Audiences are becoming more and more accus- 
tomed to it through cartoons, shorts and the increasing 
number of color features; they will demand good color 
features, to supplant black and white pictures, in the same 
fashion that the talkies supplanted the silent films. As color 
becomes general, it will make people more conscious of 
their surroundings, and they will begin to see the color 
around them. In this way the production of artistic color 
movies will do more to raise the standard of taste through- 
out the world than the movies of today. This is a task 
which the color designers of the future must not handle 
lightly. 

The production of color pictures has not yet reached 
the point where a color script is prepared at the same 
time as the dialogue. When that time comes the color 
designer will get the script at the same time as the art 
director, so that he can prepare the color while the sets 
are being designed. Then color will be written into the 
picture with the same care as dialogue. At present the pro- 
duction of color movies is being forced into the black and 
white mold, in the script, direction and cutting. But per- 
haps the time will come when a totally different technique 
will be evolved. We know, for instance, that if a color 
shot is well arranged it can be held longer on the screen 
than the same shot in black and white, which would 
become dull. There will be a place for artists and painters. 
Directors who have definite ideas about color will be able 
to express them -and experiment with them. The field 
which color opens to the motion picture is immense. Per- 
haps through color this youngest of the arts will in time 
reach its fruition. 



XVI 

MICKEY MOUSE PRESENTS 
Walt Disney 



WORLD of the animated cartoon is the world 
A. of our imagination, a world in which the sun and the 
moon and the stars and every living thing obey our com- 
mands. We pluck a little character from our imagination, 
and if he becomes disobedient we liquidate him with an 
eraser. No dictator has power half so absolute. Our ma- 
terials are anything which the brain can imagine and the 
hand can draw all human experience: the real world and 
dream worlds, color, music, sound, and above all, motion. 
A fascinating business, but to explain it we must talk of 
registering pins and exposure sheets, frames and layouts, 
basic tempos and sweatbox sessions, acoustical beats and 
audio-frequency oscillators. It is all very technical and 
confusing to a layman. Often we spend an afternoon 
showing visitors how cartoons are made, and at the end 
they timidly inquire, "But what makes the litde drawings 
move?" 

Well, as a matter of fact, all motion on the screen is 
just an illusion. When a motion-picture camera shoots a 
scene, it breaks the action into a series of still photographs, 
showing progressive stages of that action. When these pho- 
tographs are projected on the screen, at the rate of sixteen 
hundred a minute, the illusion of motion results. This is 

253 



254 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

because the eye-brain combination cannot register the 
images as fast as we can project them on a screen, so it 
overlaps them and the illusion of morion results. This 
persistence of vision was discovered by Peter Mark Roget 
in 1826. The same principle explains why our drawn fig- 
ures seem to move. We make a series of drawings show- 
ing the progressive stages of an action. Then we photo- 
graph these on regulation morion-picture film and project 
them on a screen at standard speed. They seem to move 
for the same reason as the flip books of your childhood, 
when you thumbed the pages of a pad of drawings and 
the pages whisked from cover to cover: the persistence of 
vision. 

In 1831 Joseph Antoine Plateau commercialized the idea 
by sketching fourteen drawings on a cylinder. When the 
cylinder revolved, the audience, looking through peep 
holes in the front disc, saw the drawings move in the rear 
disc. But it was not until 1906 that the first animated car- 
toon was made on morion-picture film by J. Stuart Black- 
ton of Vitagraph. It was called Humorous Phases of Funny 
Faces. The audience laughed when they saw a dog jump 
through a hoop and a man blow smoke in a girl's face. 
They were delighted by the novelty and forgave the 
crudity. Today audiences are more sophisticated. 

The greatest labor-saving device in cartoon history was 
invented by Earl Kurd. In 1914, he began tracing his mov- 
ing characters on transparent sheets of celluloid or cells, 
as they are called, and superimposing these over water- 
color backgrounds. Thus one background could be used 
for an entire scene as a single stage set. Before Hurd, the 
animator was forced to sketch the background on every 
drawing, and even in the early days it took three or four 
thousand drawings to make a cartoon picture* 



MICKEY MOUSE PRESENTS 255 

This same Kurd process enables us to have several art- 
ists work on each drawing or frame of the motion picture. 
In a scene in which Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and 
Pluto appear, our Mickey specialists draw only Mickey, 
our Duck expert draws only Donald Duck, and so on. 
These separate drawings are traced on several celluloids. 
When three or four, on which the individual characters 
have been drawn, are placed over each other and the back- 
ground, the camera sees them as one drawing or frame. 
You can imagine how much this adds to the even quality 
of our cartoons when you understand that our Duck spe- 
cialists are apt not to be so proficient when it comes to 
drawing Mickey or Pluto. 

The early history of the animated cartoon was one of 
gradual but slow development. Many series thrived and 
died. All were unbelievably crude compared to present 
standards. As a form of art and entertainment, cartoons 
had no prestige. They were turned out with a minimum 
of time, money and thought. Distributors gave them away 
as premiums to exhibitors purchasing features. The aver- 
age cost was around two or three thousand dollars. Today 
we sometimes spend eighty thousand dollars for a seven- 
minute picture. 

There has been a great improvement in the mechanical 
end of production. In the old days before sound carne 
into existence most of the cartoon equipment used was 
makeshift and crude. Gradually we have improved our 
cartoon technique by improved equipment, so that today 
the cartoon is steady and flickerless and the animators pro- 
duce better and smoother action. But the main improve- 
ments have been in our understanding of the medium, bet- 
ter artists, drawing and story technique. 

In making an animated cartoon the most important step 



256 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

comes first the selection of the story. If the story is good 
the picture may be good, but if the story is weak, good 
color, music and animation cannot save it. Most of the 
stories used in our productions are original, although we 
have a large library of children's books and reference 
books of the fantastic and imaginative type, and often 
refer to these for ideas including well-beloved folk tales, 
Mother Goose rhymes and children's songs. But our eight- 
minute adaptations must be quite different from the orig- 
inals because it is impossible to tell such stories in eight 
minutes without drastic condensation and revision. Even 
in our first feature, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, 
the Grimm Brothers' version had to be considerably cut, 
although it was short story length and our film was to 
be ten reels. But without such cuts there would be no 
room for our own fantasy, comedy and characterization. 

In our Mickey Mouse subjects we always build the 
picture around the characters; they are never changed to 
suit the picture. The characters here have definite per- 
sonalities which we try to keep before the public, so that 
they will recognize the idiosyncrasies of each one. There- 
fore, our choice of stories for the Mickey pictures is more 
restricted than for the Silly Symphonies, where we are 
in the realm of complete fantasy. 

Because of limited footage and because much of our 
seven hundred feet will be devoted to touches of fantasy, 
gags and personality business, the basic story idea must 
be simple. It can usually be told in one sentence. For 
example: 

FLOWER BALLET: The life cycle of flowers told in ballet 

pantomime. 
ON ICE: Mickey and his gang go skating. 



MICKEY MOUSE PRESENTS 257 

CLOCK CLEANERS: Mickey and his gang clean a big clock in 
a steeple. 

MOVING DAY: Mickey and his gang go through all the typi- 
cal agonies of moving under pressure, when the sheriff 
evicts them. 

DONALD AND PLUTO: Pluto swallows a magnet, which attracts 
everything metal in the house. 

We aim to have our subjects appeal to the child in 
the adult. At the same time we try to inject action in 
the stories which will keep the children amused, if the 
subject matter is a little beyond their comprehension. It 
is necessary for our cartoons to appeal to the adult, since 
adults form the largest part of our audiences. It is interest- 
ing to note the difference between the reaction of a child 
audience and an adult audience to the same subject. The 
children laugh at entirely different things from those that 
amuse the adults. When possible, we try to find a happy 
medium which will appeal to both. 

Story ideas come from all over the studio. They are 
never purchased from an outsider because too often he 
submits ideas identical with those which have already 
originated in the studio. The result may be a lawsuit, the 
writer believing he has been pirated or bringing suit be- 
cause he has nothing to lose and possibly something to 
gain, if the jury is sympathetic. 

A cartoon is made like any feature production. First, 
there is the story crew, consisting of two or three gag 
men and a continuity expert, who take a simple story 
idea and play with it for several weeks. If it is a gag pic- 
ture built around a simple idea, then gags shape the story. 
For example, Mickey, Donald Duck and the Goof fix a 
big clock high up in the air. The gag men first make a 
list of the props, particularly mechanical props such as 



258 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

the springs, cog wheels and pendulum of the clock. Then 
they examine the situations and atmosphere in which the 
characters will appear. Many of the gags are based on 
the principle of cause and effect mechanically solved. For 
instance, the Goof goes out on the scaffolding to dust 
a bell. Because it vibrates, he vibrates too. And as he stands 
helpless, the row of figures which come out when the 
hour strikes appears, and one of them hits him on the head. 
The story crew develops a mass of angles, gags, situa- 
tions and personality business during this exploration pe- 
riod. Of these several are practical and sometimes brilliant. 
We discuss the ideas over and over until we finally 
have a definite outline. Then this is written in synopsis 
form, with suggestions of situations which may be elabo- 
rated on in the story. A copy of this outline is handed 
to the entire staff of the studio individually; they read it 
over in their spare time or at home, and illustrate with 
very rough sketches any further ideas they may have for 
the story. Two weeks later these are handed in to the 
story department. Often an idea results which changes 
the entire slant of the story. The story department goes 
over all this material and finally evolves a definite scenario 
or continuity, in which we try to incorporate all the good 
gags and suggestions which have been submitted by the 
staff. For the next few months the story will gradually 
assume its final form through a painful process of addition 
and elimination. 

During this shaping period, the entire story department 
will be called in several times to discuss the story. Such 
meetings take place around a portable board (eight feet 
long and four feet high), on which are tacked rough 
sketches telling the main points of the story in sequence. 
Practically all of our story men are artists, not writers, 



MICKEY MOUSE PRESENTS 259 

because in this work ideas must be presented visually rather 
than in words. They must be able to visualize how their 
ideas will look on the screen. The scenario is visualized by 
looking at the sketches from left to right, row after row. 
Frank criticism and drastic revision mark the spirit of these 
story meetings. As ideas are discarded, the sketches illus- 
trating them are taken off the boards. Sometimes a melan- 
choly story crew will carry away a board as blank and 
barren as an empty billboard. 

The process of change and refinement continues. It 
takes from eight weeks to six months to shape a story for 
the director. At certain stages of the story's development, 
the director, his story supervisor and musical director are 
brought in, each of whom can contribute perspective and 
a fresh point of view. This is important because the story 
crew, working eight hours a day on one story for several 
months, usually loses perspective, a sense of values and the 
audience point of view. 

Here are some of the common pitfalls our story men and 
directors should avoid, but sometimes do not. 

Wish thinking: Hoping that a good i,5oo-foot story 
will boil down to a good yoo-foot story. 

Losing perspective: After working on a story for months, 
we begin to think that new ideas look better than the old 
ones. And we see the story as a series of incidents rather 
than as a unified whole. 

Forgetting the audience: Since the story is so familiar 
to us, we are apt to speed up action to the point at which 
audiences cannot clearly follow it. We rush past laugh 
spots without giving the audience time to laugh and fully 
appreciate the gags. We have too many things going on 
at once, so that the audience is confused, and we do not 



260 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

bother to make our story points clear and convincing- 
because we ourselves understand them, 

Pet ideas: An idea may be very funny but inappropriate 
to the story. It is very hard to eliminate such ideas, espe- 
cially when they are your own. But our stories must move 
in a straight line. 

Subtlety: A subtle idea may be very intriguing, but is 
doomed to fail before an audience. All our business must 
be direct and obvious Our technique has not yet reached 
the point at which we can successfully express subtleties 
through drawn action, and be sure of the result. 

If, after several months, the story refuses to crystallize, 
it is either discarded or put aside until we can bring new 
ideas and a fresh perspective to bear on it. If we feel that 
the story is close to what we have in mind, it is transferred 
from the story department to a director and his story 
supervisor. The director is primarily an expert technician, 
versed in the mechanics of picture-making. His deficiencies 
as a story-teller, if he is so lacking, are made up by his 
story supervisor. In theory, the director and story super- 
visor complement each other's abilities to make a well- 
rounded supervisory unit. 

Together the director and story supervisor begin to plan 
every detail of the picture, foot by foot, scene by scene. 
A lengthy process of refining, working out details and 
embroidering the rough structure with personality flashes 
begins. They may add bits of business, strengthen weak 
spots or even rebuild the whole story. The director now 
cuts the story down to the required footage, works out 
the entrances, exits, close-ups, dissolves and all other tech- 
nical details. He determines how much footage each action 
shall be given, and with his musical director he roughs out 




Progressive stages in dr&zin* z>id pdiiTur^ j cc 



A painted cell skoislng Mm- 
,iie Mouse and Donald Duck 
superimposed over a buck- 
ground cell. 




G/V/s working on an animated cartoon, painting tbe cells. 




MICKEY MOUSE PRESENTS 261 

the music and sound effects which will accompany the 
story. 

At this time, also, he must record the dialogue so that 
it may be measured in terms of frames or single drawings. 
For instance, if the line "Hello, there!" takes one second 
to say, it will take twenty-four frames for the lip action 
to form the words, because film runs at the rate of twenty- 
four frames a second. 

Now the stage sets or backgrounds are planned, and 
from these layout sketches are made which show the 
relation between the moving figures to the stage sets, scene 
by scene. These layout sketches guide both the animators 
and the background designers because they diagram the 
fields of action, thus showing the animator how far his 
characters can move, where all non-moving objects are 
located, and where other characters and moving objects 
appear in the picture. Similarly, the layout sketches, by 
(Hagramming the paths of action, show the designers of 
background department where to leave their water-color 
stage sets clear for action, and where to pkce each door, 
window or object which may have bearing on the action 
of the characters. In short, a layout sketch is the co-ordi- 
nating factor between animators and background de- 
signers. 

By the time the director is ready to call in his animators, 
he has charted the entire story on a layout sheet or bar 
'work sheet, which is his working script This is a sheet 
of paper divided into rectangles, each of which represents 
a bar of music. In each rectangle are written the action, 
sound effects and dialogue which will occur while the 
bar of music is being played. This bar work sheet is also 
a guide for the musical director, who by now has roughly 
planned his score at a series of conferences with the di- 



262 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

rector. In short, a director's work sheet contains the skele- 
ton idea of the entire picture. It is a means of keeping 
the picture on paper without having to refer to each indi- 
vidual scene. It is a guide for the cutting department in 
determining the length of various scenes and sounds. It is, 
furthermore, a means of determining rough action footage 
before the animator starts his drawing so that the footage 
allotment on each scene will not be too high for the pic- 
ture as a whole. It is a bird's-eye view of the whole pro- 
duction. 

To guide the animators, the director must prepare an- 
other form the exposure sheet. This is a very long piece 
of ruled paper, on which each line is numbered and repre- 
sents a frame, which, when photographed, will be a single 
exposure on the motion-picture film. In a column on the 
left-hand side of the exposure sheet, the director or his 
assistant indicates the exact action of each frame. If the 
action is to be synchronized to music, as in a dance 
sequence, the exposure sheet will also indicate on which 
frames the musical beats will fall, as the animator must 
begin or end rhythmic movements on those beats. Like- 
wise it will show the frames in which sound effects and 
dialogue will be heard, so that the action will synchro- 
nize with the sound. 

The director now; calls in his head animators and ex- 
plains the action of the story in detail. Then he distributes 
the various scenes among them, if possible giving each 
animator the type of action at which he excels. There is 
specialization throughout our studio. Some animators excel 
at drawing Donald Duck or Mickey Mouse, some at mak- 
ing lip action fit the dialogue exactly, some excel at draw- 
ing real animals, others in humanizing them, and there are 
still others happiest in animating dance routines or a rip- 



MICKEY MOUSE PRESENTS 263 

snorting chase. If the animator is a highly creative drafts- 
man with a flare for characterization, the director will 
allow him considerable leeway in working out the details 
of the action. 

If the animator is not creative, the story supervisor and 
director will work out his action in detail. He need only 
draw well and follow instructions. There are only about 
a dozen artists in the world today worthy of the name 
master animator. This is because he must be much more 
than a superb draftsman. He must know timing, show- 
manship and audience reaction. He must have the instincts 
and knowledge of a fine actor, because his characters act 
only as he makes them act; they are his own visualization 
of acting projected on the screen. And for the same rea- 
son, he must add the qualifications of a director. 

To add to our roster of master animators, we scour the 
country for young artists and develop them in our training 
school. The future of animated pictures rests squarely on 
their shoulders. We will need an additional two hundred 
young artists every year for many years to come. But 
only a handful of these will develop into master anima- 
tors. Of the remaining 99 per cent, some will remain as 
assistants to the master animators, others will become chief 
animators entrusted with scenes which do not demand the 
creative artistry and actorial ability of the master anima- 
tor, while still other young artists will eventually gravitate 
to the background department or become layout men. The 
master animator is the king-pin, but the others are also 
necessary and important. 

When he has received instructions from the director, 
the animator goes to work. He sketches in pencil on trans- 
parent drawing paper. At the bottom of each sheet of 
paper two holes are punctured, which fit over two register- 



264 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

ing pegs in the drawing board. These keep his drawing 
paper in exact position at all times. In the center of his 
drawing board, and directly under his paper, is a pane of 
glass, lit from below by an electric light. After he has 
roughed out the first sketch, he does not remove it from 
the drawing board. Instead, he places a second sheet of 
transparent paper squarely on top of drawing number one, 
which shows through the second sheet and can be traced. 
He will trace drawing number two and all succeeding 
drawings of the particular action, and he will trace all but 
the parts of the character which are in motion. These 
moving parts must be drawn in a slightly advanced stage 
of the action on each succeeding drawing. It is these slight 
progressive changes which make the characters seem to 
move when projected on the screen. Obviously it saves 
much work to trace the immobile parts. Also it insures a 
uniform size and shape for the characters in every drawing. 

Several animators may work on one character in a pic- 
ture, using the model sheets to guide them. These are 
sketches of the character in numerous poses. As each ani- 
mator has his own individual style of drawing and a 
slightly different conception of the character, model sheets 
are necessary so that, no matter who draws Mickey, he 
will always look the same. In making the feature-length 
picture, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the animators 
used models of plasticine so that they could be sure their 
little human figures were as accurate as possible and so 
that they could see their characters from all angles. 

The chief or master animator functions mainly as a 
teacher and supervisor. Under his guidance his assistants 
do most of the drawing. In a bit of action which takes 
twenty-four drawings to animate, the master animator will 
roughly sketch only the high points of the action: draw- 



MICKEY MOUSE PRESENTS 265 

ings number one, eight, sixteen and twenty-four, let us 
say. His assistants will make the remaining ones and gen- 
erally the actual finished drawings. The assistants' assistants, 
or apprentice animators, will do such easy work as clean- 
ing up the rough sketches or drawing snowflakes or a flock 
of bees. Chief animators are scarce; we must spread their 
talent over as much of a picture as possible. 

These first pencil drawings are called roughs. When an 
animator and his staff have finished a scene in the rough, it is 
photographed and projected on a screen in a small room 
called a sweat-box. Here the director, the story supervisor, 
the animators and myself run it through and criticize it, 
to analyze the lines of the animator and to make sure the 
action is correct. We make many changes, running it for 
hours and sometimes days until the action suits us. All un- 
necessary action or that which can be improved is elimi- 
nated, so that we finally have a skeleton of action for the 
picture and we know pretty much how it will look in its 
finished form. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was re- 
drawn five times, for instance. Because of this insistence 
on quality, our animators average only three or four feet 
of action per day. 

While the animators are drawing the characters in ac- 
tion, the background and effects departments are solving 
their particular problems. The term effects applies to such 
highly specialized work as animating moving shadows, 
moonlight and clouds, rain, snow and waterfalls. Back- 
grounds are painted in water colors on heavy drawing 
paper. Our background artists are generally craftsmen with 
wide experience in color, landscape, stage designing and 
lighting. They must know how the colors will look when 
photographed, for the Technicolor process does not always 
reproduce colors faithfully. Therefore, the background 



266 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

artists must anticipate the Technicolor vagaries and com- 
pensate for them in advance. For example, if they want a 
strong red in a certain scene, they must use a weaker red 
in painting the background, because Technicolor exag- 
gerates red. 

The finished pencil drawings of the animators are sent 
to the inking and painting department to be traced in 
India ink on sheets of celluloid five one-thousandths of an 
inch thick. Only girls are employed in this department, as 
their temperaments seem best fitted to this very exacting 
type of work. Most of the girls have been trained in art 
schools. It is imperative for them to be able to draw a 
firm, true pen line because the most minute jiggle in a 
traced line or the slightest variation in its thickness will 
be magnified many hundreds of times when it is projected 
on the screen. 

When the inking girls have traced the pencil drawings 
on the celluloids, each of which is numbered, another 
group of girls applies the color on the back cell. The 
paints are mixed in the laboratory of the department by 
girl technicians. The cells go through the painting depart- 
ment much as an automobile goes through an assembly 
plant. It takes one hundred girls about a week to ink and 
paint a short subject. After the cells have been photo- 
graphed, they are washed in an acid bath which removes 
the ink and paint. They can then be used again two or 
three more times, until the surface becomes scratched. 

Next the backgrounds and animation cells are assembled 
in the camera department. Our engineers have recently 
completed a multiplane camera, which gives the film a 
certain amount of depth. Cartoons have always appeared 
flat because a flat piece of celluloid was photographed over 
a two-dimensional background. This camera is far too 



MICKEY MOUSE PRESENTS 267 

complex to be explained except by an engineer to en- 
gineers. But the basic principle is simple: The back- 
grounds and cells are spaced at a distance from each other. 
So when the camera photographs a frame of a cartoon, it 
is as though it were photographing a miniature set, in 
which there is actual distance between objects, just as 
there is a distance between the actor on a stage, the other 
actors in the scene and the backdrop. The next few years 
should see much improvement in our multiplane technique, 
as it is still in the trial and error stage of development. 

Hollywood's cameramen grind away. Ours shoot one 
frame at a time. But both use motion-picture cameras. 
Our cameras are stationary and point down at the table 
on which the frames are assembled. The table has register- 
ing pegs. First the background is placed over the pegs. 
Then, four animation cells. If a frame has but three ani- 
mation cells we add a blank cell in order to maintain a 
standard light density the celluloids are not 100 per cent 
transparent, you see. In short, a frame is always four cells 
superimposed over a background. 

Frame number one assembled, the cameraman pushes a 
button and the frame is photographed. He removes the 
cells and over the same background places four more cells 
to make frame number two. The scene completed, he 
takes another background and repeats the process. It takes 
about one hundred hours to shoot an eight-minute short 
subject by this laborious frame-by-frame, stop-action 
process. In live-action, the cameraman would shoot it in 
eight minutes. 

The camera department now sends the film to the Tech- 
nicolor laboratories where it is developed and printed by 
a secret process. 

By this time the musical director has completed his 



268 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

score. It will fit the action, as you remember, because the 
tempos were determined before animation beganeach 
animator knew exactly on which frame the musical beat 
would fall. If, for example, the musical tempo were four 
beats a second, there would be six frames for each musi- 
cal beat. This is because the standard projection speed 
for motion-picture film is twenty-four frames per second, 
and these basic tempos are necessarily multiples of the 
frame projection speed. In this instance, it would be 
twenty-four divided by four beats, or six frames per beat. 

To synchronize the action of his characters to this beat, 
the animator need only begin and end each action on the 
frame on which the beat occurs. For example, if Mickey 
is running and the tempo is two beats per second, or a 
beat every twelfth frame, the animator will draw him so 
that his foot hits the ground every twelfth frame. The 
fastest tempo employed for cartoons is four beats per sec- 
ond; the slowest is one every twenty frames, or every five- 
sixths of a second. 

Every orchestra director knows that he never plays the 
same piece of music twice in exactly the same length of 
time and that his beat does not always fall at the same 
instant. To achieve split-second exactness, our engineers 
have invented an electrical metronome, which is a compli- 
cated audio-frequency machine. This sends out impulses 
or beats with invariable exactness to the musical director 
and musicians, through their headphones. By following 
each beat, an orchestra can play the same tune a thousand 
times without varying more than a small fraction of a 
second. 

We have a group of four men at the studio, most 
of whom have worked in radio, who specialize in sound 
effects and do research to be used in the future. We main- 



MICKEY MOUSE PRESENTS 269 

tain a library of contraptions with which nearly every 
effect can be made, and these men know how to create 
whatever effects we need. For example, if we want the 
sound of a rainstorm, we can either use rain machines, 
or, if we want to exaggerate that sound, our sound-effects 
men will simulate rain with their mouths and musical in- 
struments. If we wanted the sound of a giant chewing, we 
might use the actual sound of a rock crusher or we might 
simulate that sound by crushing a strawberry box or 
crunching a handful of gravel. 

Caricature in any medium is the art of revealing the 
essence of an object or personality through exaggeration 
and emphasis. This is true of our sound caricatures. By 
exaggerating sound, we either caricature the sound itself 
or characterize the person or object making that sound. 
For example, the rhythmic phut-phut-pop-bang of an air- 
plane engine warming up is a sound effect which pro- 
vokes laughter through the exaggeration of the familiar 
carried to a ludicrous extreme. Although no airplane ever 
sounded like ours, the sounds accentuate the essential 
rhythms and noises of all airplane engines. Again, in The 
Tortoise and the Hare, the terrific speed of the hare was 
caricatured by a realistic sound effect. When the hare 
stopped suddenly in mid-flight, you heard the sound of 
screeching brakes. These were actually recorded at the 
traffic intersection in front of the studio. The same sound 
coming from a cartoon automobile would not have been 
as effective unless it had been heightened in pitch and vol- 
ume to ridiculous extreme. 

The sound effects, music and dialogue are recorded on 
separate sound tracks and then assembled on to a single 
track. The dialogue was recorded before the drawings 
were made, so that the lip action could be animated to fit 



270 WE MAKE THE MOVIES 

it. This was accomplished by having the animator speak 
the words before a mirror and then copy his own lip 
movements. 

In the early days of Mickey Mouse, when the novelty 
of sound synchronized to action still amazed and delighted 
the audience, our characters romped through their pictures 
to a musical beat. But in the past few years we have used 
synchronization less and less. Personality business has re- 
placed broad slapstick to a large degree. Acting to tempo 
looks artificial and unconvincing. Today, Mickey and his 
gang must act as well as move. However, in the Silly 
Symphonies, we are not confined to reality. Here, in the 
fantastic worlds of our imagination, all nature and her 
little creatures are governed by the laws of music and 
rhythm. 

In the future, we will have more Silly Symphonies in 
which sheer fantasy unfolds to a musical pattern: this was 
the idea originally behind them. In the future we will make 
a larger number of dance-pattern symphonies. Action con- 
trolled by a musical pattern has great charm in the realm 
of unreality, but it is restricting when we attempt to create 
the illusion of reality. 

Because of our growing mastery of technique, we will 
continue to emphasize comedy growing out of characteri- 
zation and personality business, and minimize mechanical 
prop gags. It is probable that now and then we will take 
Mickey out of the barnyard and small-town atmosphere 
and cast him in highly imaginative and fantastic roles, or 
star him in well-known fairy stories and folk tales. 

Short-subject length is a painful limitation in story ma- 
terial, whereas feature-length stories open a vast new realm 
for cartoons. We feel that entering the feature field will 
add greatly to the prestige of animated pictures. We see 



MICKEY MOUSE PRESENTS 271 

no logical reason why an animated picture cannot hold 
the interest of an audience for ninety minutes. 

In our feature-length pictures, we shall probably avoid 
dealing mainly with human characters. Let Hollywood 
handle those. We have a realm all our own, where little 
animals and even inanimate objects can talk and think and 
act like human beings, only more charmingly. While we 
have improved greatly in our handling of human figures, 
it will be many years before we can draw them as con- 
vincingly as we can animals. This is largely because the 
audience is infinitely more critical of drawn human char- 
acters. The audience knows exactly how a human char- 
acter looks and acts, but is rather hazy regarding animals, 
and therefore accepts our caricatured interpretations of 
animals without reservation. Some day our medium will 
produce great artists capable of portraying all emotions 
through the human figure. But it will still be the art of 
caricature and not a mere imitation of great acting on stage 
or screen. 

At the rate my young artists have grown in the mastery 
of their technique, it may not be many years before we 
will see great animated pictures. There is no question that 
animated pictures will have their geniuses. But always re- 
member that, today, our medium judged as an art is young 
and immature and that our artists are young and immature. 
We are still feeling our way learning through trial and 
error but growing consistently in every department of 
our profession. 



BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES ON THE 
CONTRIBUTORS 



Note: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is an inter- 
studio organization for technical research and settling contract disputes. 
The Academy Awards mentioned here are given to individuals for ex- 
cellence of performance in production and for scientific or technical 
achievement. 

JOHN ARNOLD: Born in New York City. Began his motion-picture 
career at the old Edison Studio; subsequently associated as cameraman 
with Biograph, Vitagraph, Kalem, Lubin, Essanay and many others. 
Then joined the Alco, which a few years later became Metro, later 
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Photographed the first production four reels 
in length, the first commercial talking pictures fifteen years before Vita- 
phone, M-G-M's first two talkies, The Broadway Melody of 192$ and 
Hollywood Revue of 1929, and the first American screen test of Greta 
Garbo. Became executive director of photography shortly after Broad- 
way Melody. Probably his most famous single production is The Big 
Parade. Has invented die portable soundproof camera-housing or blimp, 
while camera-cranes and perambulators, automatic sound and picture 
synchronizing systems owe their origin in part or fully to him. Latest 
invention: a rotating windshield to protect camera lenses from spray in 
making rain scenes. Served as president of the American Society of 
Cinematographers (known as the A.S.C.) from 1932 to 1937 when he 
resigned. This is the professional and social organization of the world's 
best cameramen, includes the names of every director of photography 
of recognized standing here and abroad. The Society, founded in 1919, 
has been a leader in developing and proving new materials, equipment 
and methods, such an panchromatic film and incandescent lighting, and 
making these findings available to the camera profession. Publishes a 
monthly magazine, The American Cinematographer, devoted to pro- 
fessional and amateur cinematography. 

ANNE BAUCHENS: Born in St. Louis, Missouri. Started dramatics under 
Hugh Ford, the actor, but needed work, so became a telephone opera- 
tor. After a year, worked in the advertising department of the Post- 
Dispatch. Came to New York hoping to go on the stage. Instead, 
worked for president of a real estate firm, later became secretary to 
William DeMille, who was then writing plays. His brother Cecil 
DeMille sent for him to help establish a scenario department in the 
original Lasky Company, and Anne Bauchens went also. When William 

273 



274 BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES 

DeMille started to direct and cut his own pictures (all directors cut 
their pictures in those days), she went into the cutting room and be- 
came his assistant. Then through an emergency, cut her first picture, 
Cecil B. DeMille's Joan the Woman. Has worked for him since 1917, 
editing among others: Male and Female, The Ten Commandments, 
Manslaughter, The King of Kings, The Sign of the Cross, Cleopatra, 
The Plainsman and Buccaneer. 

CLEM BEAXJCHAMP: First entered pictures in 1922 as a stunt man. After 
a year was made assistant director, working on such productions as The 
Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Ten Commandments. Then joined 
Educational Studios as assistant director. During the course of five years 
there was writer, director and actor. Became unit manager and produc- 
tion manager at various studios. Won the Academy Award for assistant 
director with Paul Wing on The Lives of a Bengal Lancer in 1935. 
Joined RKO-Radio Pictures as assistant shorts producer in 1935. 

JOHN CROMWELL: Born Toledo, Ohio, in 1888. Started stage career 
with Cleveland Stock Company, then went to New York and toured 
for three years with minor companies. Became actor and stage manager 
for William A. Brady for twelve years. In 1923, branched out on his 
own and produced and directed Tarnish, Lucky Sam McCarver and 
The Silver Cord, the latter two by Sidney Howard. Produced and di- 
rected Women Qo On For Ever and The Queen's Husband. Directed 
and acted in The Racket in 1928 in Los Angeles, Went from there as 
feature player to Paramount, appearing in The Dummy. Then directed 
Close Harmony, "Burlesque, Dance of Life, Tom Sawyer, For the De- 
fense, The Texan, Street of Chance and Scandal Sheet in 1930; Unfaith- 
ful, Vice Squad, Rich Man's Folly and World and the Flesh in 1931. 
With Radio Pictures, co-directed Hell's Highway with Rowland Green. 
In 1933 directed The Silver Cord, Double Harness, Ann Vickers; in 
1934, Spitfire, This Man Is Mine and Of Human Bondage. In 1935, Jalna, 
Village Tale and I Dream Too Much. In 1936, Little Lord Fauntleroy 
and Banjo on My Knee, and in 1937 The Prisoner of Zenda. 

BETTE DAVIS: Born Ruth Elizabeth Davis in Lowell, Massachusetts, on 
April 5, 1908. Educated at Newton High School and Gushing Academy, 
Played the lead in Seventeen and The Charm School. Went to New 
York to study dramatics; awarded the two scholarships given that year 
at the John Murray Anderson dramatic school. Played stock in George 
Cukor's stock company in Rochester, N. Y., and at Cape Cod Playhouse, 
Made her first dramatic appearance in New York in The Earth Be- 
tween, appearing later with Blanche Yurka in Ibsen's The Wild Duck, 
then in Broken Dishes, and Solid South with Richard Bennett. Went to 
Hollywood, worked first for Universal Pictures, then Warner Brothers. 
Her first picture was with George Arliss in The Man Who Played God, 



BIOGRAPHICAL NQTES 275 

Then followed The Rich Are Always With Us, with Ruth Chatterton, 
and The Cabin in the Cotton, with Richard Barthelmess, after which 
she was given star billing. Some of the other pictures in which she has 
appeared are Fog Over Frisco, Of Human Bondage, Bordertown, The 
Girl from Tenth Avenue, Front Page Woman, Special Agent, Danger- 
ous, for which she received the Actress' Award of the Academy of 
Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1935; The Petrified Forest, The 
Golden Arrow, Marked Woman, for which she won the Volpi Cup of the 
Fifth Annual International Exposition of Cinematic Arts in Venice. She 
has recently appeared in That Certain Woman and Ms Love Pm After. 

WALT DISNEY: Born in Chicago, Illinois, December 5, 1901. Studied 
cartooning at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts at night, while attend- 
ing high school. Joined the American Red Cross as an ambulance driver 
in 1918, went to France for one year. In 1919, returned and went to 
work for the Gray Advertising Company of Kansas City, then designed 
letterheads and theatrical ads, later did animated advertising films for 
the K.C. Slide Company. Experimented in his spare time, made a reel of 
about two hundred feet of local incidents in Kansas City, Then had the 
idea of animating old fairy tales in cartoon-length. Enlarged his studio, 
worked with a group of artists for six months on Red Riding Hood. 
Then made a series of Alice cartoons, followed by^ Oswald the Rabbit. 
The first Mickey Mouse was made in his garage, inspired by the tame 
mice he had caught in his office in Kansas City. The second was made 
at the time of Al Jolson's The Jazz Singer. Disney wanted to synchro- 
nize his cartoons, so in 1928 he made the first synchronized cartoon, 
Steamboat Willie, and soon afterwards the first Silly Symphony, built 
entirely on a musical idea without a central character. He added color 
to cartoons in 1932 in Flowers and Trees, prestige in The Three Little 
Pigs in 1933, an illusion of depth in The Old Mill in 1937, by using a 
multiplane camera, and in the same year he produced the first feature- 
length cartoon, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. For the last six 
years he has won the Academy Award for cartoons; in 1932 for Flow- 
ers and Trees, in 1933 for The Three Little Pigs, in 1934 for The Tor- 
toise and the Hare, in 1935 for Three Orphan Kittens, in 1936 for The 
Country Cousin. 

HANS DREIER: Born in Bremen, Germany. Graduated from the Uni- 
versity of Munich. Was supervising architect for the German colony of 
Cameroons in West Africa for three years. Returned to Berlin where 
he became art director for the UFA studios between 1919 and 1923, 
working with Ernst Lubitsch on two pictures of Emil Jannings: Danton 
and Peter the Great. Since 1923 has been with Paramount here as art 
director for Lubitsch productions, such as The Patriot, The Love 
Parade, The Smiling Lieutenant, Trouble in Paradise, Design for Living. 
Was art director also for Morocco, Shanghai Express and The Scarlet 



276 BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES 

Empress. Since 1931, he has been in charge of the art department at 
Paramount Pictures. 

PHIL FRIEDMAN: Bora in New York City. Educated at City College 
and New York University Law School. Was an agent for several years, 
then went to Universal Pictures where he became head of the casting 
department. Then went to Fox in the same capacity; later resigned 
when Fox merged with Twentieth Century Pictures, and became execu- 
tive assistant to Jesse L. Lasky at the Pickf ord-Lasky Studio. After this 
organization disbanded, Friedman came to RKO-Radio Pictures, where 
he has since had charge of stock talent and casting. 

LANSING C. HOLDEN: Born in New York City in 1896, the son of an 
architect. Educated at the Hill school in Pottstown. Entered Princeton 
in 1915. When the war broke out, joined the air service, receiving the 
Legion of Honor, Croix de Guerre with palm, and Paz Marocain, the 
highest honors of the United States, France and Spain. Returned to 
Princeton, graduating in 1919, then took a Master or Architecture de- 
gree at Harvard. Went to Paris from there to the Ecole des Beazix-Afts. 
While there, joined the French air service in Morocco during the RirT 
revolt, then Professor Howard Crosby Butler's archaeological expedition 
to Sardia in Asia Minor. Returned to New York in 1926, entered the 
office of architect B. W. Morris as designer, at the same time wrote and 
illustrated articles for architectural magazines, did etching and litho- 
graphing and illustrated several travel books. Opened his own office as 
architect in 1930, but soon afterwards came to Hollywood at the request 
of Merian C. Cooper, at that time executive producer at RKO, who 
wanted him to be technical director for the flying sequences in a war 
picture. Holden collaborated on two scenarios, sold an original story, 
acted, flew and became a unit art director at M-G-M. Co-directed 
H. Rider Haggard's She with Irving Pichel. Designed the color of The 
Garden of Allah and A Star Is Born for Selznick-International Pictures. 

SIDNEY HOWARD: Born in Oakland, California, in 1891. Attended the 
University of California, graduating in 1915. Next year he studied 
drama under Professor Baker in the "47 Workshop." Went to France 
during the war, drove an ambulance and became captain in the Avia- 
tion Service. In 1919 joined the editorial staff of Life. His first two 
plays, the Labor Spy and Swords, were published in 1921. The next 
year he returned to Life as literary editor. In 1923 published Casanova, 
an adaptation from the Spanish of de Azertis. His play, They Knew 
What They Wanted, was produced by the Theatre Guild in 1924 and 
won the Pulitzer Prize for that year. In 1925, he wrote Bewitched, in 
collaboration " with Edward Sheldon, and Lucky Sam McCarver. In 
1926-27, the Theatre Guild produced his Ned McCoWs Daughter and 
The Silver Cord. In 1930 he wrote Half Gods, Alien Corn in 1932, and 
in 1934 Yellow Jack in collaboration with Paul de Kruif, which was 



BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES 277 

produced by the Guild. He has written several adaptations, among them 
The Late Christopher Bean. In 1935 he collaborated with Sinclair Lewis 
on a dramatization of Dodstuorth and in 1937 he wrote The Ghost of 
Yankee Doodle, which was produced by the Theatre Guild. Among the 
screen adaptations he has made are Bulldog DruTwmond, Condemned^ 
Raffles, Arrowsmith, Dodsworth and It Can't Happen Here from the 
novels of Sinclair Lewis, and Gone With the Wind. 

JESSE L. LASKY: Born in San Francisco, California, 1880. Was one of 
first hundred from the West Coast to go to Nome, Alaska, for the 
earliest gold rush. After a brief experience as reporter on a San Fran- 
cisco newspaper, became a leader of the Royal Hawaiian Band of 
Honolulu, later teaming with the late Henty R. Harris in a series of 
musical acts in vaudeville. In 1914, organized and became president of 
the Jesse L. Lasky Feature Play Company with Sam Goldwyn and Cecil 
B. DeMille, producing several of the famous Belasco dramas: Rose of 
the Rancho, The Girl of the Golden West and The Warrens of Vir- 
ginia. In 1916, the Famous Players Film Company and the Jesse L. Lasky 
Feature Play Company combined. Lasky was made first vice-president 
of the new corporation, and for sixteen years he was vice-president in 
charge of all production for the Paramount Publix Corporation. During 
this time he made The Covered Wagon, Wings and Beau Geste. He 
was the first to bring English authors and producers to Hollywood, the 
first to buy and produce the James M, Barrie plays for the screen: Peter 
Pan, What Every Woman Knows and A Kiss for Cinderella. In 1932, he 
resigned to form the Jesse L. Lasky Productions. During the next three 
years, he produced Berkeley Square, Zoo in Budapest, As Husbands Go, 
The White Parade and Springtime for Henry, The Warrior's Husband 
and The Power jnd the Glory, followed by The Gay Deception and 
Here's to Romance. With Mary Pickford he formed the Pickford- 
Lasky Corporation, producing One Rainy Afternoon and The Gay 
Desperado. After disbanding the Pickford-Lasky Corporation, Lasky 
joined RKO-Radio Pictures as associate producer. 

ROBERT EDWARD LEE: Born in Charlottesville, Virginia. Educated in 
New York City, then studied engineering at Tome Institute, Port De- 
posit, Maryland. Began his motion-picture career as a property boy, and 
became an assistant director a year later. Left Paramount in 1916 to 
enlist in the army, becoming the first star on the Paramount Service Flag. 
In 1919, Lee returned to Paramount, then went to Europe for four years, 
where he directed and appeared in several films. Returned to Paramount 
and became assistant to Herbert Brenon. Lee has been assistant director to 
almost every important European director from Mauritz Stiller to Fritz 
Lang and Rouben Mamoulian. 

NATHAN LEVINSON: Born in New York in 1888. First worked as a tele- 
graph operator, later became an electric and radio engineer. During the 



278 BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES 

war, fie was made a major in the Signal Corps of the United States 
Army and was the commanding officer of the Signal Corps in the Radio 
Laboratory at Camp Alfred Vail, New Jersey. Joined the Western Elec- 
tric Company as a Pacific coast radio specialist, then became managing 
director of radio station KPO in San Francisco, later the Western divi- 
sion manager of the Vitaphone Corporation of Electrical Research 
Products. He was the first man to interest Warner Brothers in sound 
pictures and his persuasion in introducing sound was finally successful. 
Since then he has been director of recording at Warner Brothers-First 
National Studio. In 1936, he received honorable mention for sound re~ 
cording in the awards for scientific or technical achievement given by 
the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. This award was 
made for the method of intercutting variable density and variable area 
sound tracks to secure increased volume range in sound recording. 
Major Levinson expresses his thanks to Dr. B. F. Miller and Mr. Lloyd 
Goldsmith of Warner Brothers Studio for the major portion of the 
preparation for his article on "Recording and Re-recording." 

SAMUEL MARX: Born in New York City in 1902. Educated at Hamil- 
ton Institute for Boys and Columbia University. First job was in the 
export department of the Universal Film Company. When the secretary 
to the president, Irving Thalberg, became general manager of UniversaTs 
west coast studio, Marx went to Hollywood and became for a short 
time assistant director to Jack Conway. Returned to New York, worked 
first for a theatrical paper, then for some New York dailies. Was editor 
of Neio York Amusements for three years. Thalberg persuaded him to 
return to Hollywood, where he became editor of the scenario depart- 
ment at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, remaining there for seven years. While 
there, he wrote an original play, Night Mayor, which was produced by 
Columbia Pictures, and Society Doctor, produced by Metro-Goldwyn- 
Mayer, introducing the actor Robert Taylor. After Irving Thalberg's 
death, he became story editor for Samuel Goldwyn, which he has been 
ever since. 

PAXJL MUNI: Born in Lemberg, Austria (now Poland, Lwow), in 1895. 
Until age of four and a half, traveled with his parents who were itiner- 
ant actors. In 1900, went to London, where he started kindergarten, then 
to the United States in 1902, where he went to public school in New 
York. Five years later, the family moved to Cleveland, where Muni 
gave up violin which he had been studying for seven years, and joined 
his father's small group of actors in a vaudeville sketch company. In 
1909 he went to Chicago as a full-fledged actor, playing character parts. 
When his^ father died, he became an independent actor at the age of 
fourteen, joining various companies and touring the Middle West. In 
1918, he joined the Yiddish Art Theatre where he stayed until 1926. In 
the same year, he appeared in his first English play, We Americans, fol- 
lowed by Four Walls in 1927. Came to Hollywood and acted in The 



BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES 279 

Valiant in 1928 and Seven Faces in 1929. In 1930, returned to the New 
York stage in This One Man and Rock Me, Julie. At the end of 1930 
he returned to Hollywood and made Scarface, then came back to 
Broadway for the season of 1931-32 in Counselor at Law. Then back to 
Hollywood for / Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang. To New York for 
the return engagement of Counselor at Law, then back to Hollywood, 
where he made The World Changes, Hi, Nellie, Bordertown, Black 
Fury, Doctor Socrates and Pasteur, for which he won the Actor's 
Award of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the 
Volpi Cup at the Fourth Annual International Exposition of Cinematic 
Arts Awards in 1936. Subsequently has made The Good Earth, The 
Woman I Love and The Life of Emile Zola. 

NANCY NAUMBURG: Born in New York City, 1911. Studied dramatic 
production under Professor Hallie Flanagan of the Vassar Experimental 
Theater, graduated from Vassar in 1932. Upon graduation, tested audi- 
ence reactions for RKO. Motion-picture and still photographer since 
1934. Photographed and co-directed Sheriffed in 1934 and Taxi in 1935. 
Made a series of photographs of the tunnel disaster in Gauley Bridge, 
West Virginia, and of architecture and interiors in the Virgin Islands 
hi 1936. Member of the National Board of Review since 1934. 

MAXIMILIAN RAOUL STEINER: Born in Vienna, Austria. Studied at the 
Imperial Academy of Music, winning the Gold Medal there. At four- 
teen, wrote and conducted his first operetta, Beautiful Greek Girl, 
which was produced at the Orpheum Theatre in Vienna. In 1904 went 
to England where he conducted at the Daly and Adelphi Theatres, the 
Hippodrome, London Opera House, the Blackpool Winter Garden and 
the London Pavilion, Then to Paris as musical conductor of the 
Alhambra Theatre, where he remained for one year. In 1914 he came to 
America and conducted and orchestrated musical comedies, revues and 
comic operas. In 1929 became general musical director, conductor and 
composer of Radio Pictures, remaining until 1936 when he became affili- 
ated with Selznick-International Pictures. At present he is conductor- 
composer at Warner Brothers Studio. He has scored Symphony of Six 
Million, Cimarron, Bird of Paradise, Morning Glory, King Kong, The 
Lost Patrol, Little Women, The Informer, Little Lord Fauntleroy, The 
Garden of Allah, The Charge of the Light Brigade, Green Light, A 
Star Is Born, The Life of Emile Zola and That Certain Woman. Con- 
ducted and orchestrated music in Flying Down to Rio, The Gay 
Divorcee, Roberta, Top Hat and Follow the Fleet. In 1935 he received 
the Bronze Medal from King Leopold of Belgium at the Cinema Ex- 
position in Brussels, and in the same year he received the Academy 
Award for the score of The Informer. He has been decorated Officier 
de Flnstruction Publique by the French Government. At present he is 
working on a symphony which he hopes to finish by the end of the 
year. 



GLOSSARY OF TERMS 



Arc lamp: An incandescent lamp of highest intensity formed by the 
bow of flame between two adjacent electrodes, emitting light approxi- 
mating daylight. 

B picture: A motion picture which is made on a limited budget with 
a short shooting schedule and uses the studio's feature players and minor 
contract players as acting talent. Also known as a program picture, it is 
generally shown as the second half of a double feature program. 

Background music: The musical score used behind the dialogue in a 
motion picture. 

Best boy: Assistant to the gaffer. 

Bit player: An actor engaged by the day to speak lines at a minimum 
salary of $25. 

Boom: Huge crane which lifts the camera and cameramen .twenty to 
thirty feet in the air, permitting the camera a wide range in swooping 
around the set. 

Boom shot: A shot taken when the camera is used on the boom. 

Booster light: A light used in filming outdoor scenes to illuminate the 
shadows on the players' faces. 

Breakdown: The analysis of the script by the unit manager and as- 
sistant director into a short synopsis of each scene, set, sequence, cast, 
wardrobe and the amount of time allotted for each set or location. 

Broadside or broad: A box-shaped reflector housing two i,ooo-watt 
globes side by side, which spreads light in an even flood over an angle 
of approximately 60 degrees. 

Cell: A transparent sheet of celluloid upon which each separate figure 
is drawn in making an animated cartoon. 

Channel: The equipment necessary for a single sound recording, which 
includes microphones, amplifiers, mixer panels and recording machines. 

Choice: The selection of the best takes of both picture and sound by 
the director and producer. 

Clapper: Or clapboard, two hinged strips of wood which are struck 
together by the assistant cameraman before a take, and are registered on 
both film and sound track to insure synchronization. 

Close shot: A shot taken at close range for emphasis which includes a 
portion of the background. 

Close-up: A shot taken at close range, which includes only the object 
or person photographed. 

Console: The electrical re-recording device through which the mixer 
controls the volume of the tracks which are simultaneously re-recorded. 

281 



282 GLOSSARY OF TERMS 

Continuity: A detailed scenario with a complete description of each 
scene. 

a . Cut: To proceed from one scene to the next in continuity, used in 
photographing or editing a scene. 

Daily (or dailies) : The scenes taken on the previous day on the set, 
which are viewed by the director, producer and often the principal 
players on the following evening. 

Dissolve: The gradual emergence of one scene from another on the 
film- In a lap-dissolve, the fade-in of one scene is superimposed over the 
fade-out of the other. 

Dolly: A four-wheel camera platform to facilitate the camera's motion 
about the set, as in a trucking shot. 

*. Dolly shot: A shot taken when the camera is mounted^ upon a dolly. 
^Double: An anonymous actor who substitutes for a principal in diffi- 
cult feats or, when that actor cannot be present, is generally photo- 
graphed in a long shot. 

Dubbing: To substitute another sound track for the original; also 
synonymous with re-recording. 

* Dupe: A duplicate negative made by printing from a positive film or 
by printing from a negative and reversing. 

^ Edit: To select and assemble the scenes in continuity, thereby telling 
the screen story as effectively as possible. 

Extra: A player hired by the day who is not required to speak lines, 
and whose salary varies from $5.50 to $16.50, depending on his physical 
appearance and wardrobe. 

,*. Fade-in: The gradual appearance of the screen image from total dark- 
ness to its full visibility. Used to denote the beginning' of a sequence. 

Fade-out: The gradual disappearance of the screen image from its full 
brilliance to total darkness. Used to denote the end of a sequence. 

Feature player: An actor or actress contracted by the studio for a 
week at the minimum. 

Feeler print: The print made from the edited negative of the work 
print after all effects have been inserted, but before the picture has 
been re-recorded. 

<* Flange: A small metal cylinder which is slit on one side to permit the 
film to enter and be held in place. 

* Flat: A section of painted canvas or thin board used in the construc- 
tion of motion-picture sets; an acoustic flat is a movable panel on rollers 
used on the music-recording stage in controlling the various orchestral 
and vocal sounds to be reproduced. 

Follow-focus: An electrical device for changing the focus when the 
camera moves toward an object. 

Frame: Single image on motion-picture film. 
*> Gaffer: The chief electrician. 

**Gobo: A black adjustable screen used to keep the rays of light from 
the camera, 



GLOSSARY OF TERMS 283 

Grip: Studio equivalent of the stage hand in the theater. 

Heavy: A villain. 

Juicer: An electrician on a movie set. 

"Leader: A piece of blank film attached to the beginning of a reel of 
film. 

Location: A place other than the studio selected for filming scenes. 

Long shot: An establishing shot taken from a distance sufficient to 
include a complete view of the scene. 

Medium shot: A shot taken from a middle distance, or from knee 
level to above the head of a person. 

Microphone (Mike) : An instrument receptive to sound waves which 
transmits them to sound-recording devices. 

Microphone boom: An adjustable crane which suspends the micro- 
phone. 

Mixer: Sound man responsible for proper placing of microphones on 
the set, control of sound volume and selection of recordings. 
' Moviola: A small machine used in the cutting room, which projects 
the picture through a magnifying lens, and the sound on the other side 
through a loud-speaker. 

'Negative: Photographic material which has been exposed and devel- 
oped, in which the light and shade areas are reversed from the original 
object. 

Optical printer: A device for making special effects which consists of 
a projector and camera set up facing each other on a table at a distance 
of two feet. The camera and projector have interlocking motors. 
vtt ,Pan: Horizontal movement of the camera. 

Playback: A device which repeats the sound record or disc shortly 
after it has been made. 

Pre-record: To make a simultaneous sound recording on film and disc 
of a musical song or dance number. The scene containing the music is 
photographed silently while the actors time their movements to the disc 
which is played back. 

Pre-score: Same as pre-record. 

Print: One of several records on film made from a motion-picture 
negative. 

Process shot: A scene projected through a translucent screen wliich is 
photographed as a background for action in motion pictures. 

Quickie: A film produced for less than $50,000 in six days and nights. 

Recorder: Member of the sound crew who is in charge of operating 
the recording machine and equipment in the recording building. 

Re-record: The process of recording additional sounds and music for 
the picture after it has been photographed and the dialogue recorded. 

Rewind: Metal support for two reels with crank so that they may be 
wound backwards or forwards. 

Rough cut: The first rough assembly of the scenes according to the 
script. 



284 GLOSSARY OF TERMS 

Rough in; Block in the lighting on a motion-picture set. 

Rushes; Same as dailies. 

Scene: The action photographed from a single camera position. 
* Scrim: Frames of muslin or netting used to soften or eliminate direct 
sunlight from the players in exterior scenes. 

Sequence; A series of scenes showing related action. 

Set: A room, building or group of buildings constructed for motion 
pictures* 

Set-up: A single camera position. 

Shoot: To photograph die film. 

Shooting schedule: The schedule made by the assistant director which 
lists the sets, actors, number of scenes, pages of dialogue and time re- 
quired on each set. 

Shooting script: The manuscript of the story organized into scenes, 
sequences and shots, from which the production is made. 

Shot; A single image on the film. 

Sound track; The film on which the sound is recorded. On the print, 
it occupies about one-tenth of an inch on the left-hand side between 
die perforations and the frame. 
.JSplice: The joining together of two pieces of film with film cement 

Sprockets: The perforations on either side of the film, two on each 
side of the frame, three-sixteenths of an inch apart. 

Stage helper: Assistant to the mixer. 

Stand-in: Person resembling the star in general physical appearance 
who takes the place of the star while the lighting is adjusted betwee 
scenes. 

Still man: A still photographer in a motion-picture studio. 

Sync mark: That identification of the film and sound track by letters, 
numerals, clappers or electrical impulses to mark the corresponding 
point of synchronization at the beginning of a scene. 

Synopsis: A brief summary of a motion-picture story in narrati 
form. 
A Take: A single record of an action on motion-picture film. 

Transparency shot: Same as process shot. 

Treatment: An adaptation of a story in terms of a motion picturv 
upon which the script is based. 

Trucking shot: A shot taken as the camera on a dolly moves in dos> 
to the scene. 

Wipe: An effect achieved by the optical printer of shifting actio* 
from one scene or location to another. Also known as 

Work print: Same as rough cut.